NOV 09, 2022

Is the App “Open” Safe for Kids?

By Jackie Baucom
Gabb Family Resources

Warning: Reader Discretion Advised

The following content may contain foul language, sexual references, and drug references. We believe it is important for parents to be aware of children’s potential exposure on social media that normalize these societal ills. Only by being educated can parents make informed decisions and successfully navigate tough conversations with their kids.


New social media platforms launch every day, largely designed to capture the youngest demographic—kids. One new app causing a buzz is Open.

What makes it different from other social networks? More importantly, is the Open app safe for kids?

Let's be open app

What is the “Open” App?

Open, sometimes called Let’s be Open, is an anonymous messaging app that purports to encourage users to share genuine feelings with friends without being judged. It does not support image or video messages.

Open claims its platform is built on “honesty, kindness, and support,” [4] but in reality, this social media platform can encourage bullying and marginalization.

man holding phone and pointer finger over his mouth

How Does it Work?

Most users find this app by getting a text message from Open saying a friend (a current Open user) wants to chat. The text doesn’t identify the friend.

The Open app contains two tabs—New Conversations
(community chats) and Messages (private messaging).

Signing up for an account requires verification the user is older than 17, since the content can be mature. Users are prompted to grant the app access to their phone’s contact list. If permission is granted, all contacts will receive an invitation to chat on Open via text.

Anonymous connections

Strangers, and even contacts relatively unknown to your kid’s friends can message your child. Here’s how it works:

Within chats, users will be labeled as a: “friend” (people in their address book), “friend of a friend” (someone in their friends’ contacts list), or have no label (a stranger with whom they have no connection — likely a friend of a friend of a friend).

Considering the theory that everyone in the world is connected within six degrees of separation, [2] Open allows connections within three degrees of separation and therefore numerous opportunities for strangers and predators to contact our kids anonymously.

Nicknames in Open

With every interaction, Open generates an anonymous nickname that changes with each conversation, so users have no way of tracking or knowing who they are talking to. Any user who attempts to expose another user’s identity will be blocked from using Open.

Each person on Open has an anonymous nickname that changes with every new conversation, so you never really know who is on the app.

Chats and private messaging

Users can post questions or express their thoughts for friends and others to see. If they decide to follow a conversation (by clicking “follow” on the bottom-right corner of a chat), they can then click on a user’s name and either privately message them or report inappropriate comments.

Predators

As with any social media platform, predators can gain access to our children on Open. Kids feel safe because of the anonymity of the platform, but predators can still private message them, build trust through deceit, and ask to continue the conversation on another platform that allows for picture and video exchanges.

Previously blocked contacts

With the way the Open app works, our kids connect with their friend’s digital acquaintances. This can allow the child to connect with someone they have previously blocked on their phone or even a stranger. 

Furthermore, a malicious user could target a young person by adding only the child’s phone number to their contacts list and having Open send an invitation to chat via text. The child would be anonymous within the app, but since they are the user’s only “friend,” the child’s identity would be known to this user.

There’s no warning of this risk anywhere in the app, but it’s a scary possibility.

Why are kids drawn to Open?

The anonymity of the app is intriguing. Confidentiality allows kids to express their feelings without fear of retaliation or consequences. As a result, they can share unpopular opinions and be more vocal than may normally be.

However, anonymity also removes the social expectations that promote civility and kindness. 

Apps like Open are not new. Some of its predecessors—Secret and Yik Yak—shared the same vision of creating a safe, anonymous space, but failed to prevent cyberbullying, contention, and harassment, leading to both calling it quits. Yik Yak was later re-released in 2021.

Anonymity’s attraction is that you can share as much as you like, but nothing you say sticks to the ‘real’ you. —Tim Wu

There Are No Parental Controls in the Open App

Although Open claims to be a safe place for users to share honestly and kindly, many conversations include harassment and crude language.

The app is designed for mature participants and does not include any sort of parental controls. Open requires the user to confirm they are older than 17-years-old upon creating an account, but this is easy to circumvent with a lie and the press of a button.


Examples of Actual Conversations on Open

  • Anyone wanna get together to smoke?
  • What’s your favorite sexual position?
  • Is anyone else from the DC area? Let’s hook up irl (in real life)!

Can Open be trusted with our children’s private information and habits?

According to Open’s Privacy Policy [3], all of its users’ data—including their comments, interactions, and personal information—will be processed and shared with 3rd parties. This is worrisome considering the platform is where many users voice their secrets. 

Little is known about the developer, Open Technologies, Inc., and no employees are listed anywhere online. Essentially, users agree to disclose all of their personal information, including private communication, and Open discloses nothing. Is it possible to trust a developer we know nothing about?

Trust is earned through clear and effective communication. We can talk to our kids about this so they are better prepared to evaluate the safety of apps and platforms.

close ups of holding hands

Moving Forward

Open is a dangerous app with the potential for anonymous cyberbullying and contact from predators. Keeping our kids away from this sort of social media platform is in their best interest. 

When we have open conversations about the risks of engaging in anonymous communication, we help kids recognize the risks and decide what value these chats really provide us.

Conversation starters about the Open app

  • Tell me about Open? What do your friends say about it?
  • I just found out something about it—did you know that people you’ve never even met can invite you to chat? Why could that be risky?
  • What personal information can you share in Open and still be safe? What details could put someone at risk?
  • Why do you think people feel like they can be rude or say hurtful things when their real identity is hidden?
  • How many predators do you think are online every day in the United States? Guess what the FBI says. 500,000! And each of these bad guys have multiple profiles.

Learn about the safety of the latest apps by signing up for Gabb Family Resources.

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