What is Yik Yak, Is Anonymity a Beautiful Thing?

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Imagine an app with a tagline that says “no profile, no password, it’s all anonymous.” Worried? You should be. Welcome to the world of Yik Yak.

Yik Yak is a startup that was launched by two Furman University students, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, aiming to connect people through anonymous, location-based posts. Within a five-mile radius, the poster can choose to share with the closest 100, 250, or 500 users. For $.99, users can share with 1,000 people, 2,500 for $1.99, and 10,000 for $5.

According to the app’s website, it promises the user to get a live feed of what people are saying around him/her using the phone’s GPS. A user can sort posts by what’s new and what’s hot.

When it comes to privacy on Yik Yak, there are some rules and guidelines when it comes to using the app. First of all, physical persons must be 17 years or older to use this service.

The content one submits, posts, or displays will be viewable by others. Only the user is held responsible for the data he/she transmits using the application.

However, the website warns that a user may encounter content that may be deemed objectionable, obscene, or in poor taste, which content may or may not be identified as having explicit language. The service allows for anonymous content that Yik Yak does not monitor. It states that the application shall have no liability to any user for content that he/she may find objectionable, obscene, or in poor taste.

However, it terms of privacy, the application reserves the right, but has no obligation, to monitor disputes between users and reserves the right to disable accounts that may harass or abuse other users.

What is Yik Yak: Anonymity

The app’s website states “Anonymity is powerful, for better or for worse. People ask us all the time why we felt the need to make Yik Yak anonymous, and the answer is quite simple. It gives people a blank slate to work from, effectively removing all preconceptions about them.”

The reasoning being “Your popularity, race, gender, sexuality, and looks don’t mean anything on Yik Yak. Anonymity levels the playing field. You can be the quietest person on campus and the most popular poster on Yik Yak. The only thing you are judged on is the content that you have created, nothing else. Anonymity is a beautiful thing.”

Anonymity sometimes maybe a beautiful thing but in this case, is it really? After the launch and immediate spread of Yik Yak, incidences of cyberbullying via the app in Chicago and Georgia were reported, followed by an anonymous bomb threat, in San Clemente, CA. Imagine your child’s school on lockdown for a bomb threat, anonymity still beautiful?

But it has to be commended that the owners of the app, quickly took action and suspended the use of Yik Yak by kids anywhere in a school or near a school.

Co-founder Brooks Buffington told TechCrunch “We were naïve…We designed the app primarily for college students. Using the app the way we intended it to be used requires a certain amount of maturity and responsibility; we were idealistic about who possessed that.”

Lately, the two co-founders contacted Apple and requested an expedited review for their new app, which they were granted; this enabled them to quickly change the app’s age rating to 17+, a step in the right direction. They also blocked the entire city of Chicago from using the app after reports of cyberbullying incidents using the app in Chicago High Schools.

The owners of the application also paired up with Maponics, which is an American startup that works on building and defining geographic boundaries.  With Maponics’ help, Yik Yak can be redesigned in a way that prevents elementary, middle and high school students around the country from accessing the app. Schools not yet mapped by Maponics can contact Yik Yak directly and one of its owners will manually input the school’s location.

What is Yik Yak: Parents and Yik Yak

How can you protect your children from potential dangers of using anonymous chat applications such as Yik Yak?

1-      You can place restrictions on under-17-year-old children’s phones that block them from downloading apps based on this rating. It applies on the i-store and Google’s app market.

2-      Your child still might be able to get around those restrictions so a much more applicable choice is to actually talk to your kids and set rules with them about their phone and computer activities.

3-      Get your children’s school or campus to talk about “Cyber Safety and the digital footprint”, children need to learn that everything posted online will remain online forever and a cyberbullying incident won’t look good on a college application form.

Spread the word on What is Yik Yak and how to use it responsibly! 

Why should you read this article on what is Yik Yak? Because, as everything else online, it can have attractive qualities to impressionable teens, making it very desirable. Before thinking of allowing or banning Yik Yak on your child’s mobile phone, you need to understand what is Yik Yak and what is Yik Yak ‘s pros and cons?

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