Yik Yak, a mobile device application, is creating concern among some school administrators. The app allows users to anonymously send messages to anyone who is within approximately one mile of them and is signed on to the app. It was intended for college-aged users, and warns that it should not be downloaded by anyone under 17. However, that has not prevented middle and high school students from accessing the app.
The anonymous nature of the messages entices and encourages users to post discussions about anything. Profanity, racial, gender, and religious slurs, sexual content, nudity, offensive humor, and drug and alcohol references have all been found on the app.
Schools notice students using the app to cyberbully with hateful messages or to post reports of possible school violence, creating disruption and fear in the school. Many school officials have responded by banning the app, sending out letters to parents informing them of the app and its negative consequences, and even prohibiting the use of smartphones on school grounds.
The app's description suggests privacy in posting, stating, "[w]hat happens on Yik Yak, stays on Yik Yak." However, messages can be traced, and like any post on the Internet, the user has little control over where their message can ultimately be sent. Shannan Younger "Yik Yak app is wreaking havoc in schools: 11 things parents need to know," www.chicagonow.com (Mar. 4, 2014).
Yik Yak? Yuck. New Mobile App Is A Child Safety Concern
May 30, 2014
- Talk with kids about online safety and what that means. Express your concerns, and let them know your expectations for online activity.
- Consider creating a written contract with your kids that details the type of online behavior they are expected to follow.
- Make sure your kids know what is considered private information. They should never give that information to someone they do not know or have never met.
- Talk about cyberbullying and the serious consequences that can occur when participating in hurtful or dangerous posts.
- Help kids to understand that regardless of the perceived anonymity of the app, posts over the Internet will never be completely secure.
- Make online safety an ongoing discussion with your kids.
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