What happens on Yik Yak stays on Yik Yak!
With the release of yet another anonymous chatting app, Yik Yak has entered the market targeting college students. So Yik Yak is providing a platform for anyone over 17 years old to post anything they want and remain entirely anonymous. Can anyone see the potential problems with cyberbullying just from that sentence? Anyone of us over the age of 17, reading the co founder, Brooks Buffington’s CNN interview where he says ‘the app was made for college-age users and older to act as a virtual bulletin board for college campuses. With anonymity comes a lot of responsibility and college students have the maturity that it takes to handle those responsibilities’, will only have to remember back to when we were 17 years old and how mature we were!
As with many of these apps, it was purportedly designed to help college students stay social, pick up on content and conversation streams happening in their geographical surroundings, and offer a creative outlet for anyone’s content. The app picks up where you are and will allow you to see live feeds from other ‘Yaks’ within a 5 to 10 mile radius. You also then choose how many users to share with, 100 up to 500. You can even pay to increase your reach within the App, through the ubiquitous in app purchase and for only $5 increase the reach of whatever content you have to up to 10,000 Yaks.
We will give the developers the benefit of the doubt and rather than placing them into the bracket of wanting to be the next app developer to be bought for billions by a Facebook, we will say they developed this app to really provide value to college age students. The unfortunate truth is that the app has fallen into the hands of those younger than 17 years of age (high schoolers and even middle schoolers) and with that access the US has seen two bomb threats and a fake shooting reported on the platform. The bomb threats resulting in the same school being evacuated TWICE!
The release of Yik Yak, adds another channel or platform into the mix that parents need to be aware of. We did a piece not long ago about apps like WUT, Popcorn and Confide which Yik Yak fits right along side. Unfortunately it’s a prime candidate as a cyberbullying platform, precisely because, like it’s kindred apps, it offers anonymity. By remaining anonymous, there can be no recrimination, no identification and as such, easier to hide. Whether that is from the bullied perspective, or the bully’s perspective. This anonymity compounds the problem we at Beat The Cyberbully have identified as the ever widening chasm between parent and child, which is lack of awareness and education when it comes to the various channels out there and positive use of them.
The developers of Yik Yak are trying to appease the situation with geosense, which will effectively disable the app within any school in America. This is great for those in the US, even though they will still have access to the app, outside of the school walls. But for us, we see that Brook Buffington and his co founder need to look at the bigger picture from a geographical perspective. What happens when someone brings it back to the UAE for example? Will they geosense every school over here as well? Will that be enough? We don’t think so.
So again the responsibility falls to parents, teachers and care givers to increase their level of understanding of the digital arena and frequently discuss with their children, the positive use of online communication channels.