I mentioned Yik Yak in my recent post “Not all Apps are for Kids“. This anonymous messaging app is back in the news again due to a story on the Today show.
Here are a few things parents should know about Yik Yak
Yik Yak is intended for the 17+ audience. Even the founders don’t want the under-18 crowd at their party:
No sign-up or account creation needed.
Posts are anonymous – no accountability for one’s words and actions.
Uses your location to display “yaks” (messages that other Yak users have posted) in your vicinity. Messages you share are seen by those in your general location. (As I mention in most posts that have to do with apps knowing where you are, you can restrict an app from receiving location data).
Since the main “feed” only shows messages posted by others within your general area, you could download the app and quickly see if there is a lot of “yakking” going on in your neighborhood. That’s what I did, and there isn’t too much Yak action (Yaction?) in this neck of the woods.
When sending a Yak, you can choose to hide your Yak’s location (the default is to show it). When someone else clicks your Yak, they will see a map with your location. It was pretty darn accurate!
Yaks are sharable to Twitter/Facebook and can be saved as an image. (You know what kids like to do with screenshots from apps? Share them on other apps.)
You can peek at a few other Feeds other than your own (i.e. outside of your location). Some are imaginary (Hogwarts?) But perusing the feeds from college campuses does give you a general idea of the variety of messages that are shared through the service. I did see a few posts like “Is there a line at Chipotle right now?” and I suspect those were the types of messages the Yik Yak founders were hoping for when creating the app. A true local online bulletin board. I didn’t see any Yaks that I would call outright bullying, but plenty of cursing, joking around about booze, sex and drugs, and unfortunately some demeaning comments about women in general.
You can report a Yak if you find anything abusive or against their terms:
In news stories the two young app founders do seem to be taking the bullying/harassment issues seriously by working with authorities and even “geo-fencing” areas around middle schools and high schools (so that the service cannot be used on school grounds). Of course that won’t prevent teens from using the app outside school. You can restrict apps by rating which would prevent Yik Yak from being available, so that is certainly an option in addition to talking with your teen about this app and others.
If you are in the one of the communities where this app has become popular, how have you handled it?