Schools across the country are warning parents about a chat app that has been linked to cyberbullying.


Schools are asking parents to talk with their children about the SimSimi app, which works as a messaging app.


Using a combination of artificial intelligence and content generated by its own users, the app recognises common responses and generates them as responses to messages from its users.


However, many fear that the app is being used as a weapon against some children, saying children can ‘teach’ the app to respond with insulting messages.



The app has seen a huge rise in popularity over recent weeks, causing many to become concerned.


Many schools have sent letters and messages to parents to warn them of the dangers.


While the app has received positive ratings on app stores, the reviews reveal that many have received negative, or even hateful, comments.


“This app is the worst, because it is an easy way to bully people and promotes it,” reads one review.


“It’s just being used for bullying and has hurt loads of people. It should be taken down off the store,” reads a message from another disappointed user.




Speaking on Newstalk yesterday, PHD researcher at Dublin City University’s Anti Bullying Centre, Liam Challenor, revealed it is easy to train the app to say bad things.


“You would introduce yourself, say hello, ask questions, and then the app would feed out responses – based on probability of conversations it has had in the past,” he said.


“You can also train it to deliver responses to other people, and that is based on keywords.


“You could type in a fellow pupil’s name or a teacher’s name, and then associate a response that SimSimi can replicate out to another person.”



Mr Challenor echoed the feelings of many who reviewed the app, and said a major issue with it is the anonymity it provides.


“It is this theme of moral disengagement – when you are not connected to the person that is on the other end of your communication.


“A bully doesn’t see the effect they are having and is therefore disengaged to the consequences.”