What is Yik Yak? An app review for parents
I encourage parents to talk to their children about online safety as often as possible. This should be an ongoing conversation. It is also recommended that parents check their children’s phones and electronic devices often.
What is Yik Yak?
Yik Yak is like a bulletin board. People can post things on there for others to see. They can communicate with others within a 1.5 mile radius. It is anonymous. No profile names. No followers. Comments are controlled by those within the 1.5 radius of the post. If a comment is voted up (liked), it is seen by more people. If a comment receives 5 downvotes, it is deleted from the thread. Users can upload images as well to their posts however it is reviewed by Yik Yak before it is posted. The app is available on ios and android devices. It is free.
Yik Yak is the creation of Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington. Both were students at Furman University in South Carolina. They created the app largely from their experiences as students on campus. They noticed that in order to be seen on social media, you had to have a large following. They wanted to provide a platform where anyone could post anything and have that post seen.
Problems: Cyberbullying and threats
At the University of Michigan three female college professors were the subject of conversation on the Yik Yak app during class. When a teacher’s aid revealed the conversations to the three teachers, one became so upset she emailed administration in hopes of action against the students. She even threatened to hire a lawyer. Nothing much came from it. There was no way to verify who posted on the application.
Threats are also an issue. More than a dozen university students have been arrested and charged for threats they’ve posted on Yik Yak. These schools include: Drake University, the University of Albany, Pennsylvania State University, Towson University, University of Georgia, Widener University, University of Southern Mississippi and University of Nebraska-Kearney, just to name a few.
When the application began to be used by high school and middle school children, the creators began to shut down the app in certain locations. Increased complaints in the Chicago area prompted the app creators to close down the application for a time within the city. They have since built geo-fences where the app cannot be used on school grounds. At that time they also raised the age limit of the app from 12 to 17. App creator, Tyler Droll said, ““We made the app for college kids, but we quickly realized it was getting into the hands of high schoolers, and high schoolers were not mature enough to use it.”
The Mason School District in Cincinnati has banned the app from the school after two bomb threats were made.
Yik Yak does work with law enforcement. While it claims to be anonymous, the company will help law enforcement if asked.
- This application is not restricted to 17 year old children and older. Anyone can download the application. A telephone number is required to register however there are free applications where a child can sign up to receive a telephone number.
- The possibility of cyberbullying is increased. Parents should be aware their child may be a participant or victim of bullying.
- Yik Yak has been used by people to connect with others for sexual reasons. Users can leave contact information, such as their snapchat profile name and ask for others to contact them there.
- Geolocation is used with this application within 1.5 miles. Without much effort someone may be able to track another user.
Safety begins at home
Parents should consider implementing the following rules related to electronic devices:
- The ability to review phones or devices that have apps at any time.
- The understanding that parents can delete or take away applications that are inappropriate.
- A Monthly review of online safety practices.
- Appropriate time limits for children using devices.
If you find that your child is using Yik Yak, please talk to them. Use the skill of Effective Communication to set some rules and expectations about social media etiquette. You can also use the skill of Decision Making to help your children know what to do if they are a victim of cyberbullying.