Yik Yak and The Incredible Lull of Anonymity

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Category: Social Networking, Teenagers

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In the past decade, social media use has gone from over-sharing personal information on Myspace and Facebook to hiding behind screens and anonymous profiles.  Over the past 6-12 months, apps such as Secret, Whisper, and now Yik Yak are increasing in popularity among teens.

Yik Yak is the latest app following on the anonymous trends, and describes itself as  “a live feed of what people are saying around you, using your phone’s GPS. The posts only stay up a limited amount of time before disappearing.”

This past week, I received an email from a principal at a Chicago high school who had banned Yik Yak from campus after students were posting updates about their classmates in a way that was derogatory and hurtful.  The concept of a local, live feed may have been an innocent one, as its iTunes App Store description pens it as:

– The ultimate way to share your thoughts and recommendations, anonymously.
– Share your own Yaks and see what other people are saying.
– No login, no password, no traces; simply anonymous.
– Upvote and downvote Yaks, see what makes it to the ‘Hot’ page!
– Perfect for college/university students to stay social!

Yik Yak has potential to be what it was truly created to do: let others in the area know what’s going on.  Unfortunately, anonymity gives users the false sense they cannot be held accountable for anything posted, and some posts have been malicious.  At a Massachusetts high school,  administrators saw some of the posts as serious threats and evacuated the building.

“Sources say high school students are using the app to anonymously post hurtful and inappropriate comments about their classmates.  The Chicago Tribune reports that at least two Chicago-area high schools sent home letters to parents Wednesday about ‘Yik Yak.’  Last month, a teenager in Mobile, Alabama was arrested after making shooting threats on the app.” Read more here

Have you talked to your children about Yik Yak or other social media apps that focus on anonymous and ephemeral interactions?

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Images courtesy of the iTunes App Store

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