The other day my son asked me, “So mom what do you think about the Yik Yak app?” Sounds like the start of a knock knock joke of sorts doesn’t it? But there is nothing funny about the Yik Yak app. My son was asking me about my opinion of the latest app that is all the craze of teens across America. He asked me because we have regular conversations about social media in my tech heavy household. One of the perils of being the son of a Social Media Marketainer. However, given that he and his generation are digital natives, it makes complete sense. But enough yapping let’s get to Yaking … or more to the point, let’s stop the yik yak.
When my son brought up the app that morning, I did what I often do, turned the question onto him. “Well, how do you feel about it?” I asked. Without missing a beat he responded, “I think it is set up to be a bullying app.” He hit the nail right on the head. The Yik Yak app is a cyber bullying playground. But let me back up and paint a better picture for you. Yik Yak is a location based social media app. It is like a giant chat room, but you have to be within the geographical walls of the chat room to participate. But what you don’t have to be is transparent. You can post, comment and vote anonymously and suffer no consequences for anything that you spread, IE hate speech. Your teen may not even be using the app, but that doesn’t stop others from talking about your kid in a post and inviting others to vote it up or down. That happened to a friend of mine’s daughter. Someone posted something nasty about the teen, and by the time she was made aware of it the post had already been voted down by a wide margin. Let’s face it though, not all kids are that lucky or have the sense of self to withstand such cyber criticism.
Because it is location based, it is tough for a parent to keep tabs on the stream unless you sit out in the parking lot of your teens’ school. Which, let’s be clear, I am not at all above doing. But just keeping tabs on the posts isn’t enough to quell the danger. School administrations have been taken by surprise by this new app craze. Some tried to shore up the flow of vulgar and cruel posts by blocking the app on their wifi server. But most teens have their own 4G data plan available to them on their phones and are ultimately un-phased by such blocks. Banning cellphone use during the school day or even confiscating the devices while students are under the school roof doesn’t stop the posting, it just delays it
Posts can be done anonymously. That’s bad enough, but the situation is much worse as people can actually sign someone else’s name to their posts. Of course this is against Yik Yak’s User Agreement, but those words don’t stop the practice. Here’s the kicker, Yik Yak knows this. Their Legal disclosure covers them, it does nothing to really cover your teen, especially since the app is not for use by anyone under the age of 17. Which means the bulk of the users right now are doing so against the Yik Yak user agreement. But the cloak of anonymity allows for these violations to continue unfettered and without any consequences to Yik Yak. There have been a smattering of consequences for user abusers though. A few arrests were made last month in Alabama after a teenager made a shooting threat about a school. Yik Yak helped authorities track the poster to their phone, and he was apprehended. Oh yes, Yik Yak can do that. The app is location based so they know exactly where the posts are coming from. But it is up to the victim, in this case the school, to seek assistance from authorities to get protection, and ultimately justice. That works well with something big like a terrorist threat, but cyberbullying, harassment, mean spirited posts, those are flowing unchecked.
- Go on the app yourself and flag posts, even if that means you have to sit in school parking lots to access the feed.
- Take screenshots of content that relates to your teens and the schools they attend and report age violations. Sure you may not know exactly who is posting, but if the posts are coming from your teens’ high school, chances are many of the participants are under the age of 17. Challenge Yik Yak.
- Talk to reporters. Share your frustration, concern and specific cases of harassment.
- Write blogs. Document what’s going on in your community and how Yik Yak is effecting the health, well being, and educational pursuit of your teen.
- Post your anger on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, your feed and the Yik Yak feeds. Use my hashtag #StopTheYak to unite the outrage.
- Inform your friends and community members about the apps existence. Make people aware and give them a call to action.
- Bring Yik Yak out from under the cloak of their legalese and make them back those legal words up with legal action.
We need to realize that tech is not the problem, humans are. Tech doesn’t invent itself. Behind every technological advance is a person who births it into being. Those humans are in this to make money. Cut off the potential flow of profit, and they will move on to their next invention. Parents have more power than they realize, so do their teens. I know that my son isn’t the only one who recognizes the danger of this app. There are a lot of teens out there that I have talked to who are very disturbed by this new trend of hate. First and foremost you need to talk to them. Talk to your teens, and their friends, and their parents. Bind together to fight against this scourge.
Now, I wish that conquering this app would solve all of the problems of bullying and harassment that dominate the lives of young people these days, but sadly it won’t. We have to ask ourselves why are we humans so hungry for cruelty? Until we deal with that core issue these kinds of apps, video games, television shows and events, and the cruelty they give way to, will continue to be developed.
My son’s parting comment to me last night, “You have to do everything you can to get this app stopped mom. We shouldn’t have to wait until someone gets hurt or hurts themselves because of it.”
No, we shouldn’t.
Additional work from Miss Lori can be found atMissLori.TV, Wearetherealdeal.com, YoungChicagonista, and TheChicagoMoms.com. You can also see her Activating to Be Great at Miss Lori’s CAMPUS on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn.