We have long been proponents of parents getting insight into what their teens are doing online and on social media by taking a simple step – checking which apps are on their teens’ phones.
A new case in New Jersey this week is a real life example of why that matters, especially with anonymous apps.
According to an article posed at the Bergen Record’s northjersey.com site, a Ridgewood teen was taken into custody this week after posting a school gun threat on the increasingly popular anonymous app Yik Yak.
“In an email sent home to parents on Wednesday, Superintendent of Schools Daniel Fishbein said the threat, made Tuesday evening through a Smartphone app known as Yik Yak, was eventually “deemed not credible” and that the person responsible was in police custody.”
Yik Yak is an anonymous, location-based app that has been trouble since it launched. The way the app works is that anyone who uses the app is automatically a member of a network defined by a location, so if a student uses the app at school, posts will function as a public bulletin board for that school.
Posts that any students make appear on a wall that other users at that location are able to see, with no information as to who posted the comment. It is an app custom-built for cyberbullying and school threats, whether or not it was intended to be that way.
In this case in Ridgewood, the student had allegedly threatened to bring a gun to school, and has been charged with making third degree terroristic threats.
In an article at TechCrunch earlier this year, Yik Yak claimed to have dealt with the issue of middle and high school cyberbullying and threats by erecting a geo-fence around those schools, or at least 85% of them, making the app unavailable. It isn’t working.
Yik Yak is only one of the new crop of anonymous apps that are causing serious problems at schools, and landing students in hot water – Secret, Fess, Truth and Whisper are others. We encourage parents to have an honest conversation about which apps their teens are using and what they’re using them for.
There’s a funny thing about anonymous networks. They’re not really anonymous, and your teen needs to understand this. In this case, Yik Yak cooperated with the police immediately, and turned over the IP address of the teen who posted the threat.
Even though this threat was deemed not credible, the teen was arrested. If your teen is using Yik Yak, there might not be a problem, but you don’t want to wait until there is one.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.