Fizz App Safety Guide for Parents

Lakshmi | June 26, 2024

In May this year (2024), a high school in Vermont made Fizz, a private messaging app, available to its 1,300 students. Within hours of its launch, complaints started trickling in from the students to the administrators about cases of bullying, body shaming, and gossip-mongering.  Soon students visited the school counselor in tears, and one student had to be counseled not to quit school. Within weeks, a public outcry from parents induced Fizz to remove access to this platform for the students of this Vermont high school.  

Cyberbullying on Fizz App

While social media itself is a minefield, and bullying is a common side effect, especially among children and adolescents, what made Fizz go up in flames within hours in this high school?

The response of one student user explains this.  They said that Fizz was advertised to them as a “Gossip App.”

 The Fizz website, however, advertises the app as an "uplifting digital space for GenZ."

 So, which of these is Fizz? 

 At Mobicip, we aim to inform parents and guardians about these kinds of social media apps that have both benefits and pitfalls.  Read on to learn more about Fizz, and how Mobicip can keep your children safe on the Internet and in Social Media apps.

What is the Fizz App?

Fizz, formerly called Buzz, is a social media app that was developed by two undergraduate students (dropouts) of Stanford University.  It was aimed at building social connections with other community members, support for classes, and sharing thoughts, jokes, and memes. The app allows anonymous interactions aimed at personal security.  Created in 2020 to help students connect during the pandemic shutdown, Fizz today has 113,000 monthly active users, most of them college students, but a few thousand high school students as well.

Communities are created based on universities (or schools); users must sign in using their university email ID.  However, the formal school/university body has no access to the content or data from the app, and the students, despite their bonafide, are on their own. As with other social media sites, members can upload photos, write posts, conduct polls, and upvote or downvote other users. One of Fizz’s marketing strategies is to employ student ambassadors to spread the word within their academic group.

Age Restrictions on Fizz

While Fizz does not specify an age restriction for membership, it is open only to students who are affiliated with high schools and colleges, which means that late teenage is the average age of the members. This is a natural filter to prevent younger teens from using the app, which agrees with Mobicip’s recommendation of not letting tweens and pre-teens use social media.  

Clinical psychologist Dr. Mitch Prinstein, also the chief science officer of the American Psychological Association, believes that while 13 years is generally perceived as being ok for social media presence, unsupervised access without parental control should not be allowed until 16. 

Prevent cyberbullying with Mobicip parental control

Why Parents Should Care About Fizz App?

Adolescence is a wonderful albeit tough phase of life.  Much like all real-time relationships at this age, the relationship that an adolescent has with social media is unpredictable and complicated.  On one hand, it helps build social connections and offers a platform for self-expression.  On the other are all the pitfalls of inappropriate, even dangerous exchanges, addiction due to FOMO, and fall of self-esteem and confidence due to peer pressure.

Risk of social media addiction

As adults, we know that anything done in excess is dangerous; now whether we act by it or not is another matter altogether.  But for adolescents, risk-taking by extreme indulgence has roots in brain biochemistry; adolescent brains release more of the reward chemical dopamine compared to children or adults, which makes them more prone to risky behaviors that give short-term pleasure.  This is more so in indulgence in social media; reward response from risk-taking behavior is more in a social group.  Fizz as a social media platform, offers all the short-term pleasures of social media, and also houses the long-term dangers.

 Evils related to anonymity

 Anonymity is touted by Fizz as one of its USPs as it helps people communicate without having to identify themselves in public.  Anonymity, however, can be dangerous.  As early as 375 BCE, Plato, in Book 2 of his Republic talks of invisibility being the only barrier between a just and an unjust person. The anonymity offered by Fizz makes it a fertile ground for cyberbullying, harmful language, and inappropriate visual content (photos/videos). 64% of teens report that they have been exposed to hate-based content through social media (not necessarily through Fizz), even if not directly targeted at them.  Anonymity allows bullies to target unsuspecting victims and cause long-term damage to their mental and sometimes physical health. For example, students often upload pictures of their peers without permission to mock their looks and disabilities. 

 Security risks

 Are Fizz users really completely anonymous?  An OpEd in the Stanford Daily has this to say about anonymity in Fizz:

Although the privacy policy does not specify what this user information may be, it also states that Fizz has “collected Personal Information in the following categories”, which may include: “identifiers such as real name, alias, … Internet Protocol address, email address, account name”; “financial or health information”; “browsing history, search history, and information regarding a consumer’s interaction with an Internet Web site [or] application.” Clearly it would be disastrous if someone with malicious intentions were to access this information.

The same OpEd also reports that in 2021, there was a serious data breach in Fizz wherein the personal information of members was exposed by hackers.  Although Fizz claims that this lapse has been fixed, the reaction of Fizz in this issue was ugly, with Fizz warning the reporters of the vulnerability of legal action for disclosure.  

Apart from the fact that the members must use their academic email ID to sign into the app, there are no further parental controls. While this may be ok for college students, who are likely 18 or above, and technically adults, this may be a problem for high school or younger students.  While it seems that using parental control in older teens seems like a breach of privacy, InternetMatters dot org found that nearly a quarter of teens surveyed feel that parental control until the age of 17 helps.  Parental control can help moderate time usage on the devices and also raise flags for inappropriate or damaging content.

Gossip-mongering and spread of misinformation/rumor

The student of the Vermont school who thought Fizz was a platform for gossip, was not far wrong in their assumption.  Social media is now the fence across which we share unsubstantiated, often judgemental opinions about other people. While there are psychology studies that posit that gossip is a way of social and moral regulation, its effects, especially in social media that is more expansive than the fence-talk can be harmful. For example, in the case of the Vermont high school Fizz fiasco, students used Fizz to speculate or spread rumors about students' sexual orientation, while others shared photos that suggested underage drinking or smoking.  While the latter case must certainly be brought to the attention of the caretakers, spreading the information on a social media platform is dangerous.  The damage caused by gossip and rumor cannot be underestimated because rumors are often perceived as facts, and people react to them.  Gossips and rumors can cause real-life bullying and ostracizing of the victim, which may lead to mental breakdown of the latter, leading to psychological issues, and even dangerous outcomes like suicide.  

Mental health concerns

Indulgence in social media sites like Fizz has been shown to cause mental health problems, including irritability, anxiety, depression, sleep issues, lack of self-esteem, and loss of focus and concentration. The U.S. Surgeon General’s advisory states that teens who spend more than three hours a day on social media double their risk of depression and anxiety. Anonymous social media sites like Fizz can also lead to dangerous viral trends  that have disastrous outcomes.

Practical Tips for Parents of Young Users of Fizz

This is the era of digital connectivity.  It is impractical, and probably inadvisable to cut off children entirely from social media apps like Fizz.  However, parents can take a few steps to safeguard children from the dangers of such apps.

Knowledge is power.  

Parents must be aware of the kinds of social media apps that are popular among youngsters and children.  It is good to read about these apps, their pros and cons, and what users and other parents feel about them.  There is a lot of information available online on this, and it may be confusing for the parent guardian.  You may read about many of these apps in our blog

Guidance on responsible social media use

Adolescents need guidance, how ever much they claim not to.  It is the adult’s responsibility to teach the child about responsible use of social media.  Some aspects to emphasize include the need for safety through the use of strong passwords, the kinds of data that shouldn’t be shared with strangers, such as personal addresses, phone numbers, and personal photographs, and the dangers of interacting with strangers and oversharing personal information. The dangers of time wastage on social media must also be communicated to these children.  

Children must be taught the importance of respect, boundaries, and empathy so that they can engage in social media responsibly.  Adolescence is often a confusing period, with a rewiring brain and an overactive hormone system wreaking havoc. A healthy and empathetic relationship between the adult and child will help in fostering positive mindsets and habits among youngsters.  More importantly, parents/guardians need to set an example through the conscientious practice of social media hygiene;  actions speak louder than words.  Unless the child has seen the parent/guardian respect boundaries and practice empathy, it could be hard for them to internalize such values.

Children/adolescents must be comfortable enough to reach out to the adult for help, if there is trouble in social media.  This means that the adult must keep the channel of communication open, and avoid judging the child for any misdemeanor or mistake they have made.  Adults have also been teenagers once and have made mistakes.  Just giving the child the confidence that there is an adult to fall back on can prevent anxiety, fear, and depression that social media interactions can lead to.  Being aware of behavioral changes in children/adolescents can also point to social media-related problems, which must be handled with care. 

Monitoring of Social Media engagement

Adolescents and children benefit from parental monitoring of their social media presence. The extent of monitoring would depend upon the age of the child.  While younger children’s content must be carefully monitored, older children and adolescents could consider this a breach of their privacy.  In that case, it helps to use parental control tools that at least control the time they spend on social media sites, and flag inappropriate content they may be engaging with or exposed to.  

Parental control software like Mobicip can help in this regard. 

Mobicip is an app that offers a comprehensive Activity Summary of your child's digital behavior, providing insights into the websites they visit, their app usage, and alerts about suspicious activity. By actively monitoring your child's online habits, you can guide them towards healthy digital behavior and protect them from potential threats. The Parent Dashboard in Mobicip is the central hub for these insights, featuring comprehensive reports on browsing history, app usage, and screen time. It offers detailed logs of websites visited, app usage duration, and total screen time spent. Alerts and notifications include suspicious activity alerts and real-time notifications for specific activities or rule breaches. Detailed analytics help identify trends and patterns in usage, while the user-friendly interface offers easy access to reports and settings with custom viewing options. Quick controls allow parents to lock devices and manage screen time instantly, ensuring the safety of children on social media apps like Fizz.

Promoting constructive activities “IRL”

Finally,  there is a real world outside of gadgets. Encouraging children to participate in real-life (IRL) activities like volunteering can, at the risk of sounding cliche, help build character and offer freedom from the echo chamber of social media.  It can also help them build social skills, 

 Take Away

Is Fizz App safe for adolescents?  This is a question that has no direct answer.  While social media apps like Fizz, do help with peer engagement, the dangers of their misuse cannot be overstated.  Parents must be aware of the dangers of the app, and take necessary steps to protect their wards from them.  Awareness, communication, and monitoring are the steps to proactive protection from the dangers of social media apps like Fizz.  



 Is the Fizz app safe for my child?

Fizz could be problematic for younger users, as seen in the Vermont high school's experience where it led to bullying, body shaming, and gossip, causing significant distress among students. Despite being marketed as an "uplifting digital space," Fizz's anonymity feature can foster harmful behavior. Parents should be cautious and stay informed about the app's potential dangers and how it affects their child's mental well-being.

How can I protect my child while using the Fizz app?

Parents can protect their children from the dangers of social media apps like Fizz by monitoring their activity, setting time limits, and having open conversations about online safety. Emphasize the importance of not sharing personal information, recognizing and reporting harmful behavior, and fostering empathy and respect online. Parental control tools like Mobicip can help manage screen time and flag inappropriate content, ensuring a safer digital environment.

What should I do if my child encounters cyberbullying on Fizz?

If your child encounters cyberbullying on Fizz, start by offering support and listening to their experiences. Encourage them to report and block the bully on the app. Document the incidents with screenshots and relevant details. If the bullying persists or involves serious threats, contact school authorities and consider seeking professional help to support your child's mental health.






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