Wait! What is Yik Yak?
you are a parent, grandparent, or educator in the area, then Yik Yak is
the new social media site you need to learn about in order to
understand what is going on with teens and early twenty-somethings.
in December of 2013 by a company in Atlanta, in just a few months Yik
Yak has taken off in popularity on college campuses and in high schools
around the country. The app (for iPhone and Android) works as a local
bulletin board with a 200-character limit on each text. Messages are
confined to a 1.5 mile radius so if someone is 20 miles away, for
example, they would not be able to see what was happening in the local
But then the real problem sets in for Yik Yak. The users
are anonymous. Much like previous versions of anonymous social media
apps like Secret and Whisper, the lack of needing to place a name with a
user account has given some people the chance to show their inner
And it is not pretty.
- A San Clemente, California
high school was shut down in March after a student used Yik Yak to send a
bomb threat because he thought it would be “fun.”
- Also in
California, a high school student was charged with three felonies after
threatening shooting sprees at two local schools.
- Shooting sprees were also threatened by two teens at schools in Mobile, Alabama.
New York Magazine recently profiled the abuse of Yik Yak at a Westport,
Connecticut high school where some kids were referred to as “slut” or
“fag.” One student asked how soon before they could count on a named
student committing suicide.
Anonymous social media services have
become the places where cyber bullying runs rampant. Even though the
legal disclosure for Yik Yak states users must be at least 17 years-old
to use the service, there is no real way for the owners to be able to
police that requirement. Some school districts have asked Yik Yak to use
geo-fencing to block the program from working around middle and high
schools. The owners have complied but even they admit all students need
to do is access the app from their homes to get around the security
To be fair, the Yik Yak program has provided some benefits
as well. A student at Vanderbilt University was recently diagnosed with
cancer and users on Yik Yak banded together to raise several thousand
dollars to be used for medical bills.
So, the main problem is not
with Yik Yak or its technology. The issue is with the users. The
anonymity of the Internet allows people to say and do things they
normally would not do in public. A few years ago the Columbus Dispatch
famously teamed up with the website Topix to be used for comments on
their articles. They paid tens of thousands of dollars to integrate the
Topix programming into their newspaper website.
The program lasted
only a few months before the swearing, insults, racism, etc. rose to
such a vile height the Dispatch management shut it down.
UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said, “The true test of a man’s
character is what he does when no one is watching.” Apparently our
society is on its way to proving we have failed the character test.