The Yik Yak app is pretty terrible from a parent’s point of view, and from ours. It is an anonymous, location-based message board that is used by (mostly) high school and college students to vent, talk trash and cyberbully. The positive use cases are fairly limited.
Its use by teens has led to, according to my very unscientific count, over a dozen arrests this year alone, and I have the feeling that it could also pose a risk for parents of teens who are using it. I’m going to give you a real life example, with real names and locations left out.
Last weekend, a friend of mine and his wife were out of town – out of the state for a matter of fact – with no chance of coming home unexpectedly. Alone at home was their 16 year-old (with a family friend looking in from time to time).
On Friday night, the girl told the family friend that she was going to sleep at a friend’s house, didn’t, and called some friends to come over for a party. Around 9 PM, an acquaintance posted the following on Yik Yak: “Party at 519 Fictional Road” (the exact location of the house, in a small town) without the knowledge or permission of the teen host.
You can guess what happened next. More people showed up than expected or were invited, some things got broken, and luckily the teens were able to shut the party down before anything really bad happened. After the teens shut it down, turned off the lights and hid inside, random people kept showing up at the “party”.
Since I live within 5 miles of this friend, I knew about the party before he did.
The thing about Yik Yak is that in addition to being anonymous, there is no “friend” or “follower” structure. When you post something, it is visible to every Yik Yak user within a 5-mile radius.
The community on Yik Yak is mostly high school and college students, but that Yak could have been seen by adults of any type – axe murderers, sex offenders, drug dealers or anyone else. If something bad happened, I wonder what the legal liability would have been for the parents of the teen who posted the unauthorized “invitation”.
There is a simple solution for parents of teens:
- Pick up your teen’s phone
- Look for the Yik Yak App (Yak logo above)
- If it’s there, tell him or her to delete it and have a nice chat about risk and responsibility
For Yik Yak, a simple solution does not exist. The app as it currently functions enables all kinds of bad and risky behaviors. They should voluntarily shut it down. If anyone from Yik Yak reads this and wants to comment, they should reach out to us here.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.