Yik Yak, the anonymous app that uses a phone’s GPS system to act as any local school’s anonymous message board, started causing problems at high schools soon after it launched in late 2013. In our review in February of this year, we wrote:
“Another feature of the app adds to the virality of extremely outlandish or hurtful posts – users can upvote (or downvote) posts, and posts can be sorted based on popularity, all of which can serve to light a fire under the worst type of content and commentary.
Just this week, Yik Yak has been blamed for a school shooting threat in Alabama and an outbreak of cyberbullying at a Kansas School. In neither case have any users involved been identified.”
In the case of Yik Yak, the founders were not tone deaf to the publicity of problems being caused by the app, and in March one of the founders granted an interview to TechCruch, addressing the issue.
“To implement [high school]…bans nationwide, the team 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.’”
This sounds like a great response, but that was six months ago and we are still seeing weekly occurrences of Yik Yak causing problems in high schools. To wit:
Yik Yak bullying leads districts to ban app – Sept. 29, 2014
Yik Yak app leads to trouble for high schoolers – Sept. 25, 2014
Yik Yak app leads to arrests, raises concerns of cyberbullying – Sept. 24, 2014
Based on those three headlines from the last week, it’s hard for us to believe that Yik Yak has actually geo fenced 85% of U. S. high schools and blocked that app for those students. As a matter of fact, our offices are about a mile from the local high school, and Yik Yak is positively thriving, complete with content that would make most parents blush.
Maybe Yik Yak will drop us a line on this.
If you’re the parent of a teen, the chances seem pretty good to us that there is an active Yik Yak community at your kids’ school. If you see the Yik Yak app on your teen’s phone, take a look. If you don’t want to pry into your teen’s phone, feel free to contact school officials and ask them if they’ve taken steps to block the app. According to Yik Yak, they can do so if it hasn’t been done already – school officials can email firstname.lastname@example.org to have it done manually.
We hope that Yik Yak doesn’t believe that they’ve solved the problem yet. They haven’t.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.