Yik Yak, Anonymous Apps and Parenting

Another very serious problem was enabled by anonymous app Yik Yak this week. A few things are true of anonymous apps, teens and college students that parents need to be aware of, and do something about:

  • yik-yak-logoYoung, impetuous folks are more likely to say something mean spirited, stupid or even dangerous when cloaked in anonymity
  • When threats to student safety are involved, other kids will often speak up
  • Parents are generally unaware of whether their kids are using anonymous apps, or social networks using a pseudonym
  • Many (most?) networks and apps are happy to reveal the identity of an anonymous poster when pressed by law enforcement officials

Case in point is the news coming out of Widener University yesterday, where a student has been arrested after a post made on the anonymous app Yik Yak. It turns out that he wasn’t so anonymous after all.

The 20-year-old freshman has been charged with making terroristic threats, simple assault and harassment and his bail has been set at $500,000. He will be required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. This is serious stuff.

According to one report, the post in question was:

“I will attempt to shoot everyone who I f***** hate and who bully me every single day!!!” Bastards; VT, Denver Columbine … Welcome to Widener mother f******”

In this instance, the authorities apprehended the suspect within ninety minutes. A detective contacted Yik Yak and asked for the IP address of the user who made the post, and they quickly complied. Shortly after, the schools’ Chief Information Officer was able to trace the IP address back to the student, since he had accessed the app via Widener’s wifi network. It was that easy.

We have no idea whether the student was joking or serious, but there is no doubt that he didn’t think he was going to be arrested within hours.

Parents of kids with mobile devices would be well served to use this situation as an example of how serious this issue is. Even when anonymous, your words and actions online can come back to haunt you. Make sure that your kids understand this.


Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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