Here’s what parents should know

Here’s what parents should know

There’s a new social media app that’s captivating teenagers. Using the Gas app, users can anonymously compliment their friends (or secret crushes), and the app is gaining momentum among young users.

NBC News correspondent Savannah Sellers reports TODAY that 1 in 3 teens use the app and more than 1 billion compliments have been shared.

So how does it work? Gas app users can log in and compliment, or “gas up”, their friends. Users take a series of polls on their friends, with questions ranging from thoughtful to flirty.

“You sign up, join your high school and or you sync your contacts so we can find your friends,” Gas app founder Nikita Bier told Sellers.

Bier says people have drawn comparisons to other anonymous apps that have been plagued by bullying.

“The difference with Gas is that we write all the content so that you respond to polls that are generally uplifting and positive, and that’s kind of the goal of the product,” says Bier.

Sample surveys: “I would say yes if (blank) asked me out on a date.” “I think (blank) is the coolest kid in school.” Users choose a name to fill in the blanks, and people can see the results without knowing who is casting the votes.

Bier says Gass has been designed in a way that is “completely secure and private.”

“We don’t allow messages of any kind (and) we have no advertising or tracking,” he says. “We really wanted to create a safe place for teenagers to share what they love with each other, and I think we’ve really achieved that with Gas.”

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Sellers spoke with students from Stuyvesant High School in New York who reported positive interactions with the app and shared examples of compliments they’ve received.

“I like your glasses,” shared Nicky, whose last name has been withheld to protect their privacy.

Another student named Finn said, “Wanted to make an ugly face and still look pretty.”

But are there negatives associated with an app dedicated to “gassing” people?

Titania Jordan, head of parenting at Bark Technologies, a social media watchdog platform for parents, says yes.

“While Gas isn’t nearly as dangerous as other apps we’ve reviewed recently, it does have its share of problems,” she tells TODAY.com. “The app asks you to add your contacts from your phone, and if you choose to do so, you can see all kinds of people in randomly generated polls, which can get messy.”

Jordan adds that while nothing “super-explicit or identifying is revealed through these polls,” the possibility exists that kids can become “very attached to the idea that someone likes them, which leads them to use and check the app obsessively.”

Jordan also warns against a part of the app that requires money.

“Gas has a subscription upgrade called ‘God Mode’ that unlocks features that will reveal additional information in polls,” she says. “For example, you can see the first letter of the name of someone who voted for you, or you can be notified every time someone adds your name to a new poll.”

The Bark Technologies CEO says this feature could potentially get more kids hooked on the app, and “may lead them to spend more and more money and time on it.”

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Bier said the hint feature is the only way the company makes money from the app, and “we actually encourage teenagers not to use it. Because it’s more fun when there’s a mystery.”

Jordan says parents know their kids best and should proceed with caution, just like with any social app.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com

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