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‘Saturn’ app raises safety concerns in Central Florida school districts

SANFORD, Fla. — ‘Saturn’ is designed as a calendar and scheduling app for high school students.

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It lets students share their schedules and connect with others in their classes.

Saturn has raised serious safety concerns in the last week.

Volusia, Brevard, and Seminole County schools have all alerted parents about the app.

On Thursday morning, Sanford Police Department joined in to sound the alarm.

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The app was created as an organizer by college students for other students.

But, as long as you have an email, phone number, or Snapchat -- anyone can join this app, not just students.

Vanessa Tripplet couldn’t believe how easy it was to become a Saturn high school calendar app user.

“I put in a fake name and a fake date of birth, and that’s all I needed to create my profile,” she said

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At her fingertips was more information than she would have liked to see about several of her nieces and nephews, including their grade school and class schedule.

It set off immediate alarm bells.

“If a predator had already seen that list, they now know you go to that school,” Tripplet said. “They know what your schedule is-- and they know where they can find you.’

Aside from organizing schedules, the app also allows users to communicate with each other.

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Tripplet said she immediately warned her family about concerns.

The nationwide outcry led the app developer to make some changes. The latest version verifies users based on their school emails and mutual contacts.

Unverified users are also walled off from those who are verified.

School districts like Brevard warn that despite changes, there is no way to ensure users are students.

“The app was not malicious-- the app had a great design and a great intent,” said cybersecurity expert Darrin Johnson. “They’re going through some growing pains.”

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Johnson added the changes are a good start, but more can be done.

“I would like it if the school actually verified that they want to allow the app in their schools, parents were notified, and they had the opt-in ability,” he said. “And they chose for a minor whether they were going to allow shared information about their students’ time and schedules.”

Channel 9 spoke with parents, and they told us they’re also concerned about cyberbullying and stalking access with the app.

Experts like Johnson said it’s always a good idea for parents to get involved and talk to students about online safety.

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