Recently, one of our citizens shared concerns with me about an app called “Saturn-Time Together.”
After doing some research about this, I have come to the personal opinion that the Saturn app may be gaining popularity among high schoolers. It’s a scheduling app designed for students, but I think parents should be extra aware about some serious privacy issues for kids. So I decided to take a look for myself.
I am sure this post will likely draw criticism from those who think there’s nothing to worry about. And to the parents who allow their child to use the app, I’m not here to judge. There will be those who are just fine with it; that is their choice and decision. But after looking into this app, I would have wanted information about this when my kids were in high school. Here is some of what I learned.
Saturn is a scheduling app where you can upload your class schedule and find out who your classmates are. All of that sounds great and lots of fun socially, but there are some other things you need to know.
After launching the app, (yes, I did) I was prompted to provide a phone number for login identification. Then, I was asked to enter my birthday and select my graduation year. Since I’m not in high school, I obviously had to enter a fictional name, date of birth and graduation date; but after I did that, I was able to join most any school I wanted to in the USA. (Boyden Hull, Western, etc. ) I decided to join a random local school to see what happened. Again, I didn’t have to verify any personal information other than my initial phone number. I was a 50 year old man that was able to have access to 200+ other students, or “friends,” as if I was one of them.
You need to verify that you are a student using a school schedule, but I, like others who have tried this, could enter a fake schedule to see who was in my class. Anyone smart enough can look in the app and choose from a list of teachers that you can see in the app. It also told me what students joined my classes. If I changed the teachers on my personal schedule, I could view what students were in any class. I could also look up athletic rosters.
This is concerning to me because if I could do this that easily, then any offender could do the same thing without ever having to “log in.” Predators are always looking for new ways to find their next victim.
Equally concerning, in the app students have the ability to upload personal information about themselves, add their social media information: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, etc., Several students had quite a bit of information about themselves and/or their interests. Some of them had reels and videos I could watch right in the app. I obviously learned things about total strangers without them ever knowing. Personally, if my child were using this app, it would be very troubling and concerning to me, but again that is just my opinion. Please make your own informed decision. Keep in mind, I could also accept or make friend requests while I was in the app. It doesn’t take much imagination to see where this could lead if it was a predator on the other side of the screen.
As I read in another article about this, you can change your profile name at any time. I tried it and it’s true. So that is another concerning aspect because what would stop me from using someone else’s name to do something I shouldn’t-Such as shaming someone or bullying someone? The entire time I used this app, I never had to verify who I was either.
In conclusion, I know there will be some who will question why a law enforcement agency would care or feel the need to share its thoughts on an app. My answer to that would be, what law enforcement agency would pass up an opportunity like this to educate parents about the issues and risks involving this. Issues that put underage students at risk for the possibility of predators taking advantage of them, or to use it to bully or become a victim. Again, I’m not here to talk down to anyone for letting your child use Saturn. It’s completely your choice; it’s just that I would rather follow my “gut feeling” and err on the side of caution. When people share concerns with me, I check into it, and came away with some “red flags” that I would definitely have wanted to know had this app been around when my own kids were in high school. Do your research. Be aware of the risks. Make smart decisions realizing there are those who will take advantage.
If you’d like to read more from another very good source on this topic, you can also read this article here:
Thank you for hearing me out. If you made it this far, please share so people can make a well-informed decision.
~ Sheriff Jamie Van Voorst