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PSNI warning over SimSimi app of 'explicit nature' linked to cyber bullying

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Police in Northern Ireland have issued a warning over an app that is being linked to cyber bullying.

The anonymous app called SimSimi has been removed in the Republic of Ireland but is still available to download in Northern Ireland.

The app can be “taught” responses by any user when certain names or words are typed in.

It means that users - many of whom are school pupils - are getting abusive replies when they type their own names in to the app.

Schools in Northern Ireland are alerting parents to the concerns surrounding the app and and asking them to check their children's phones.

The PSNI issued a warning on their Facebook page.

It said: "We don't often take the unusual step of highlighting apps that are circulating out there but this one gives us great cause for concern.

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"Over the last couple of days we have been getting PMs asking us about SIMSIMI on the app store.

"It appears to be a computer generated chat room where you talk to a very abusive computer.

"We had only been using the app for 2 minutes before we got quite the surprise.

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The app is no longer working in the Republic. Pic: Don't be mean behind your screen

The app is no longer working in the Republic. Pic: Don't be mean behind your screen

The app is no longer working in the Republic. Pic: Don't be mean behind your screen

"Please be aware of it and its explicit nature. The app is rated as 17+ but I am twice that age and was really shocked at some of the stuff that came back. It also has in-app purchasing and advertised posts.

"We have reported it to the App Store and will include it in our Internet Safety talks but parents, carers and internet users should keep an eye out for it and avoid."

St Paul's Bessbrook was among the first schools highlighting the dangers of the app.

It posted: "Attention Parents/Guardians! A number of responsible pupils have reported the circulation of this app called simsimi. It looks harmless, but can be used anonymously to cyber bully.

"We would advise that it's removed from your child's devices. Sincere thanks to our pupils for reporting the potential dangers and potential misuse of this app."

The app stems from south Korea.

James O'Higgins-Norman the director of the National Anti-Bullying Research Centre at Dublin City University said it was being downloaded in "huge numbers" last week.

"We saw the potential for cyber bullying and we began to put out warnings through the media to parents and to schools," he told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster on Friday.


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