Technology Tuesday: Yik Yak

App Alert:  Anonymity Apps…and the danger of being anonymous

Yik Yak…maybe the name comes from the Coaster’s song of the 50’s (Remember…  “Yackety yak, don’t talk back”).  Whatever the origin, those of us who care about kids are wishing we could “talk back” to these anonymity apps and their creators. 

Just in Williamson County in Tennessee alone this spring, a host of hurtful statements spread throughout our community on various anonymous twitter accounts.  And, as these tech folks do, they saw the trend and answered what they felt like was a need.  It wasn’t.  Now, there are dozens of anonymity apps popping up all over the social media landscape.  “Promising a place where you can be more honest,” these apps allow people to post whatever they would like to online-anonymously.  You can imagine where this is going.  Not only are these apps a hotbed for online bullying, but there have even been reports of bomb and shooting threats taking place.

The creators are taking steps to prevent high schoolers from using yik yak and have even banned it from school grounds.  But, kids are much more savvy than we are when it comes to technology.  They’ll find a way, especially when it comes to keeping up with their peers.

As counselors who work with kids, we cannot say it enough.  They need you to be informed.  If your child is in middle school or younger, he needs you to protect him.  You wouldn’t let a bully continue to harm him on the playground.  The same is true when comes to technology.  Make sure you know what apps your child is downloading and that he is not allowed to have any anonymity apps.  If you have an older teen who has proven herself to be responsible, she still needs your help.  Talk to her.  She will often not make the decision that is in her best interest, especially when it comes to social networking apps.  As one 18 year-old said to me last week, “There’s just nothing good that can come out of anonymity.”  Help her understand why.  You and your child both need to make protecting his or her heart a priority…and that is true even-maybe even more-when the one you are protecting him from is anonymous. 

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