That depends on what your definition of “blocked” is.
Yik Yak is an anonymous, location-based app that allows users to post messages for the people around them, and interact with those messages. According to the app’s creators, Yik Yak was designed for colleges, but it has come to be one of the most troublesome apps at high schools in 2014. The app is frequently used for cyberbullying, posts about drug and alcohol use and teacher bashing. It unfortunately has also been used for threats of school violence.
The app’s creators have made a big show of being up to the task of righting this wrong. Since March, they have been telling a thoughtful story of how they are tackling the high school problem. Speaking to TechCrunch back in March:
“To implement [high school]…bans nationwide, [Yik Yak] approached third-party data provider Maponics in order to license GPS data for a total of 100,599 public schools across the U.S. as well as 28,111 private schools.
“They have 85 percent of the GPS coordinates for American high schools and middle schools,” says [Yik Yak founder] Buffington. “The message [to students where the app is blocked] is something along the lines of, ‘it looks like you’re trying to use Yik Yak on a middle school or high school grounds. Yik Yak is intended for people college-aged and above. The app is disabled in this area.’”
That sounds like a great solution. The problem is, there are still a troubling number of reports of high school students up to no good on Yik Yak, and we wrote about it last month.
We reached out to the company for comment, and they offered the following via email:
Yik Yak: “If principals are noticing Yik Yak being used at their High Schools, they need to log on to YikYakapp.com and in the support section, request a geo-fence for their school. This app is not intended for anyone younger than 17, and not intended for use at any school other than a college or university.”
Me: “If a geofence is implemented for a school, does that block Yik Yik on wifi only, or an both wifi and cellular?”
Yik Yak: “Both.”
That seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? The problem was solved at 85% of high schools as of last March, and if a school has a new problem, they can easily get help.
Not so fast.
Just last week, another Yik Yak incident was in the news, this time in our area. The Neshaminy High School Principal Rob McGee sent an email to parents warning them that students were using Yik Yak inappropriately, and urged parents to take action. This week according to news reports, the app has been blocked. From the Bucks County Courier Times:
“An app used by Neshaminy High School students to communicate with each other has been silenced, after it exploded in popularity last week with inappropriate messages.
Jack Bunting, spokesman for the Yik Yak company, said developers of the anonymous message board app put up a “geofence” that will prevent people in, or even near, the high school from accessing it.”
Fox 29 Philly ran with the news that Yik Yak had been blocked as well:
“the app’s creator shut down any use of the app in or around Neshaminy High School.”
Link to the full video of the story here.
Yesterday, we decided to take a drive to Bucks County and see for ourselves. What we found is pictured at right.
We drove into the school parking lot and opened the app. It worked just fine. We then drove closer to the front door, and the app did become disabled, displaying only the following message, “You appear to be using this too close to a school. Yik Yak is for adults only.”
We then drove to the end of the parking lot, maybe a few hundred feet from the building, and the app became operational again. A half-mile from the school, and again about a mile from the school, the app also worked just fine.
Yik Yak hasn’t solved the problem. If high school students want to cause problems at a school, they can easily get to the app. We have been checking, and it seems like every high school in this area has an active Yik Yak community.
This geofence thing is a placebo, and we’re calling on Yik Yak to come up with a better solution.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.