This was bound to happen at some point. Yik Yak, the anonymous, location based app that acts as a sinister message board at schools across the country, was banned by Norwich University in Vermont. Many high schools have already taken similar steps, but this is the first college that we know of going this far. According to the school president Richard Schneider:
“I just know that it is hurting my students right now,” he says. “They are feeling awkward, they are feeling hurt, they are feeling threatened.”
When we reviewed Yik Yak earlier this year, we didn’t have much to say that was positive:
“… Yik Yak is causing havoc in a number of schools already, and has the feeling of something that is likely to spread quite quickly… a feature of the app adds to the virality of extremely outlandish or hurtful posts [is that] users can upvote (or downvote) posts, and posts can be sorted based on popularity, all of which can serve to light a fire under the worst type of content and commentary.”
Unfortunately, hurtful jabs, hateful cyberbullying and illegal acts can be “popular”.
The ban at Norwich appears to us to be mostly symbolic. According the Huffington Post article, Yik Yak will be banned on the school’s computer system. Since Yik Yak is used primarily on mobile devices (phones), this ban will not effectively stop any kids who want to use it from doing so. We applaud the effort, though.
Incidentally, another anonymous app called Leak shut down earlier this week. One of the founders wrote the following in an explainer published at Medium:
“people who use Leak for bad reasons have become increasingly more significant. And this is definitely not what we want for Leak.”
Regardless of whether the ban at Norwich will work (it won’t), it can serve as a reminder to parents of middle and high school students that anonymous apps have risk. According to an article about Yik Yak this week that quoted Indiana law enforcement officials:
“People feel more comfortable engaging in criminal activity, saying things, doing things they wouldn’t otherwise do if their name was associated with it,” said Indiana State Police Cyber Crime Commander Lt. Chuck Cohen. “Police can find out who you are. In most instances we will find out who you are and we will arrest you.”
Parents can start by knowing which apps are on their kids’ phones, and what they are used for. Take it from there.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.