Yik Yak is the latest in a series of new anonymous apps. On Yik Yak, people have complete anonymity to share their uncensored thoughts, observations and comments. This app is designed to act as a local bulletin board for communities. Unfortunately, what many people use it for is to post mean and bitchy comments about other people.
Yik Yak is like an anonymous local Twitter feed. It doesn’t require a username, password, or login. You just download it and go. The only data Yik Yak needs is your location. Yaks (as these posts are called) are shared with the first 500 users within a 5 mile radius. Yaks are limited to 200 characters. Other users can reply to a yak or share it on Tumblr, Twitter, etc. They can also promote it within Yik Yak by voting it up or down. Yaks with the most up votes appear in the hot newsfeed.
This app is perfectly suited for school campuses. Schools have lots of people within a 5 mile radius who know each other and want to connect. Most students are not using Yik Yak as a local bulletin board. Several high schools were on lock down due to bomb threats on Yik Yak and others have banned the app due to cyberbullying.
Yik Yak is rated 17+ in the app store, for good reason. When I scrolled through Yik Yak, I found most people were either bragging about their sexual exploits or slamming someone else. Although authors enjoy anonymity, many of them had no problem using their target’s name.
The app states in its rules, “Yaks should not join a herd until they are mature enough, so no one under college age should be on Yik Yak“. In an effort to keep high schoolers off, the company has geofenced areas around high schools and middle schools. So, students cannot access this app within school boundaries. Outside of school, teens can still post. Hopefully, limiting access within school hours will reduce the abuse on this app.
Anonymous apps are trendy now. Teenagers are looking to escape the curated images of Facebook and Instagram. But, some of these apps are not as anonymous or private as they may think. Parents should talk to teens about behaving responsibly all the time not just if an adult is watching.
What Parents should talk to teens about
Apps have age restrictions for a reason. Just like you wouldn’t let a kid see an R rated movie until their ready, they should not be on certain apps until they are older. In the case of Yik Yak, this is a really bad R rated movie – little character development and an awful plot.
Complete anonymity does not exist on the internet. Everywhere they go they leave a footprint online. Even on Yik Yak, police were still able to identify and arrest the student who posted the bomb threat. Teens should always act responsibly online.
Never hide behind anonymity. It is OK to use anonymity to protect themselves and their personal information. It is not OK to use it to hurt others. It is cowardly to slam someone online. If they need to vent, they should talk to a friend in person. Online is not the place for blowing off steam. Because Yik Yak is shared within a school community, teens may think they are just joking around or being funny with their school friends. These “jokes” are rarely funny to the recipient. If they wouldn’t wear the funny joke on t-shirt to school, they should not post it online.
This is not a private playground. Yaks can be shared on other social networks and spread beyond 5 miles. What was a friend pranking them can become the internet dumping on them. Friends should be friends online and off. Remind teens if they see this type of behavior, don’t add to it by reblogging, favoriting, liking or upvoting. They can report inappropriate posts to Yik Yak. They can also talk to a parent or a trusted adult if they have problem or a question.