Description: Created by two Furman graduates in 2014, it was intended to become a virtual bulletin board, using GPS location data to bring comments from other nearby users into the feed.
Category: Social Networking
APP Store rating: 17+ (“frequent/mild alcohol, tobacco, drug, mature/suggestive themes, profanity or crude humor, sexual content and nudity,” etc.). Don’t be fooled by the friendly looking animal in the icon.
Bullies Abound – recent cyberbullying incidents in Chicago and Georgia, and a bomb threat in California show how something innocent can always be used for evil. In one cyberbullying case in Georgia, especially cruel and troubling comments were made about a deceased student. Fortunately, Yik Yak did the right thing, and is now creating geofences around middle and high schools that will prevent the APP from being used when a smartphone’s GPS sees that they’re within the “fence”.
Anonymity – Yik Yak allows anonymous comments or posts using an alias. Users believe that there is no way to trace the source of the messages, but in one situation, police were able to arrest a juvenile after investigators received help from Yik Yak in order to identify the source of the comment.
No Location Privacy – Yik Yak knows your location and allows users to obtain a live feed of Yaks (or messages) posted by people within 5 to 10 miles of their location. Posters choose to share with the closest 100, 250, or 500 Yik Yak users. Users have to be signed into the app to receive the messages, but they don’t have to have an account.
Report the Junk – Yik Yak offers two ways to report inappropriate content. One way is to have two people select the comment and click the “report inappropriate” button. The other is emailing a screen shot of offensive content to firstname.lastname@example.org for immediate removal. We have not tested this method to see if Yik Yak actually follows through on the request, and if so, how quickly.
Anonymity fuels risky behavior. Also, a general rule, if an app cannot be easily monitored, parents may want to consider whether it’s appropriate for middle school students. Parents should take extreme caution when deciding if their young kids should use this app based on the risks noted and real-life stories of abuse.