In Your Face: 'Ugly Meter' App Spurs Cyberbullying Worries
As if cyberbullying wasn't horrible enough, a new iPhone app called the Ugly Meter has the potential to take cyberbullying to a new low.
Developers Dapper Gentlemen tout their app on its website in this way: When your friends won't tell you the truth, the Ugly Meter will. The premise of the app appears to be something fun and goofy take a picture, scan it through the app, and it will provide a score on the picture subject's attractiveness. The higher the score, the less attractive the photo.
However, scoring ugly is the point of the app, as the Daily Mail found (Brad Pitt was graded an eight out of 10!). And that's what makes the app a new, powerful tool in cyberbullying.
The app also not only shows how technology is being used to spread an old problem (bullies don't need the extra help to be mean), but how the approach to online security has to change to keep up with the times.
Cyberbullying is a cybersecurity issue, said Ed Rowley, senior product manager at M86 Security.
Internet security has grown to include managing content, as well as worrying about privacy and malicious code, Rowley explained. It now encompasses managing what sites people can go to and controlling what people can see.
Technology, he added, has made people rethink the idea of acceptable use policies. Schools are good examples of this, he said. In order to reduce bullying on campus grounds and within school networks, officials use security features to control what kids can and cannot do on computers.
Unfortunately, applications downloaded to smartphones or devices like the iPod Touch are harder to monitor , and therein lies a major part of the problem with apps such as the Ugly Meter. Kids can snap the photo, run it through the app, and stick it on a Facebook page without anyone ever knowing until after the fact.
Parents, teachers and other adults need to work together to discourage and prevent this from happening, Rowley said.
First and foremost, parents should understand how to use any technology their child uses and to be willing to check the technology for problem signs. He also suggested monitoring the apps on their child's phones and websites they visit. Or use technology available, like Mobile Watchdog, that alerts parents to inappropriate text messages, phone calls and e-mails.