Yik Yak, the anonymous app that is winning the battle for young users who wish to express their mind without having their real identity exposed, is at the center of controversial events far more often than would be the case in a perfect world.
From plain vanilla cyberbullying to school bomb treats to teacher bashing to teen parties unwittingly being crashed, there seems to be a never ending stream of bad behavior being played out publicly yet anonymously.
And it’s only anonymous until the police get involved, which has been happening frequently.
While Yik Yak claims that its intended audience is college kids, it’s no secret that high school students and even middle school students are using it, despite the company’s efforts to put some limits in place via technology.
If middle school kids are indeed using Yik Yak, parents might wonder whether it is safe for 10 – 13 year olds. We don’t think it is, and there are a number of reasons:
The age limit – The age limit for using Yik Yak is 18 (17 with parental consent) but is easy to get around, and many younger users do. If your child signs up, Yik yak is going to assume she is 18 and treat her as such, and if you look the other way, you’re letting her know that it’s okay to lie about her age. Not a great idea.
False sense of security – Yes, users of any age tend to act more outlandishly if they feel there is zero chance of being found out. Not all users, sure, but most users might do something anonymously that they wouldn’t do in real life. The fact is that if the police make a legitimate request, Yik Yak is quick to hand over user information. Consequences can be severe.
It is location-based – The network that one participates in is determined by the 1.5 to 10 mile radius around that user’s location. Thus, while users are anonymous, a young user’s friends from school can easily sleuth out who some posters are. We have seen it happen.
“Acceptable” behavior – Anyone using Yik Yak is going to see bad behavior. The younger the user, the more likely he is to think that it’s acceptable, or the way things are done – especially when nasty posts are getting positive feedback.
Crowd mentality – Since posts are interactive – other users can upvote or downvote your post, or comment on it – the type of crowd mentality that happens across social media happens here too.
In summary, parents should insist that would be Yik Yak users stick to the stated age limit. The type of behavior seen on the app should be avoided entirely, but being a part of such a community can certainly wait until users are more mature. All you need to do is check your child’s phone and look for the green yak logo.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.
Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.