March 10, 2014

    Can Teens Be Nice to Each Other Anonymously?

    Want to write anonymous things that people in your five-mile radius can read?

    There’s an app for that.

    It’s called “Yik Yak” and as you can imagine, it’s causing a commotion at high schools as students have caught on that they can say hurtful things that won’t come back to them.

    It’s similar to a virtual bathroom wall at best, and it’s a cyber bully’s perfect weapon.

    Here are a couple of national headlines to give perspective: “Yik Yak disables app in Chicago amid bullying concerns.”

    “Teens are using new app ‘Yik Yak’ to slander and threaten their classmates.”

    Earlier this month, Milton High School Principal Cliff Jones sent out an email to parents urging them to have a conversation about technology with their children.

    “I encourage us all to take time to talk with our youth about common sense boundaries,” Jones said. “What our children post now can be seen by colleges and employers in the future. This reality is not considered by our children when they are caught up in the moment while using social media.”

    Other local schools have also taken notice and have banned the app, meaning that if they see a person using Yik Yak, there could be ramifications.

    Local police have taken to promoting an app to report cyber bullies. The app is called “STOPit,” and aims to put the power in the hands of those taking a stand against cyber bullying.

    Bullying amongst pre-teens and teens happens everywhere, but social media has made it really easy for bullies to harass and stalk their victims without suffering any repercussions.

    The Yik Yak startup was launched by two college students and was aimed at other college students wanting to gripe about classes and things through anonymous location-based posts.

    Within a five-mile radius, the poster can choose to share with the closest 100, 250 or 500 Yik Yak users. And for 99 cents, users can share with 1,000 people. They can share with 2,500 users for $1.99 and 10,000 for $5.

    Posts can be deleted if they are marked as inappropriate or if someone screenshots offensive content and emails it to Yik Yak.

    App founder Brooks Buffington said the company is working to find a technical solution to prevent app abuse by high school students.

    “The blocks that we currently have in place aren’t working as well as we’d like them to,” Buffington told TechCrunch. “One thing that we have seen on the college front is that the longer a community is around, the more mature and constructive it becomes. So we think that lends to some promise for the anonymous or semi-anonymous app realm.”


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