Many families and educators are asking what to do about the Saturn app. The app is currently #3 in the Apple App Store for social apps, behind Threads and WhatsApp.
What is the Saturn App?
The Saturn app has a powerful hook for young people with mobile devices and lifestyles. The Saturn app promotes itself as how to spend more time with friends. It is a calendar or planner for those with active schedules to intentionally coordinate or predict time with their friends. By either uploading a schedule generated from school or identifying themselves through school and grade level students can also join and start to connect with peers around calendar-centric activities.
Why is the Saturn App a Problem?
It appears the threshold to gain access to geolocation data on school-aged students can be as low as a phone number. Once in it is not clear how Saturn blocks users from just assuming the identity of other students. If users are not careful, they could be reaching out to an imposter. Authentic users are also linking social media platforms to reveal an increased amount of information to Saatrun app members.
Bark provides an enlightening review. Common Sense Media does not have a review yet, but that is always the source I check with on these types of apps (stay tuned and I will update).
Who should solve this?
Many schools and families are becoming aware of this app as the traditional school year starts back up. While families can have healthy conversations around applications on mobile devices, there is one industry that could address this issue. The K12 Student Information Systems (SIS) that schools trust to keep grades and student information confidential could help. By incorporating a social sharing feature in a close environment of the K-12 organization they could ensure know participants.
What is stopping SIS companies from doing this? It is unclear if they have the feature capability, or (honestly) if students would want to use it if they did. However, likely your school is interested in hiding students’ schedules until a predetermined date in the summer. As you can imagine, as soon as school schedules are posted schools are inundated with questions and requests. A shift to a more transparent scheduling process overall could be spearheaded by schools even to head off the questions of time spent with friends by students.
Right now, families and educators need to educate students on the safest ways to interact with social media like the Saturn app. A combination of trusted adults in the life of students, the schools themselves, and eventually the Student Information System companies themselves.