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Got a high schooler? You should probably know about the Yik Yak app.

It has been the cause of so many problems for teenagers that many school districts have banned it.

It has been the cause of so many problems for teenagers that many school districts have banned it. It utilizes GPS technology to put people in contact with complete strangers near their geographical location. Every social networking app or site has its niche: Instagram is image-driven with ready-made filters to make the most amateur photographer’s photographs look like a sepia-washed Ansel Adams; Facebook was born in a dorm room and grew up as those students entered the workplace, becoming a way to keep in contact with classmates and loved ones; and Yik Yak was built to be the anonymous social network, allowing users to interact with anyone in any way they want to with little or no consequence.

Yik Yak began as the brainchild of Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll, two fraternity brothers from Furman University (a university of 2,700 students in Greenville, South Carolina). Once created, the app’s use spread organically from college to college: from Furman University to Wofford to Georgia Tech to Georgia. Students took the app home with them over spring break and spread the app to their hometown friends, who took it to their respective colleges and spread it there. Originally, Yik Yak users had to be in a 1.5 mile radius to see other people’s posts. The anonymity of the app allowed people to talk freely, and often humorously, about shared experiences. A student in a college dining hall could wax anonymous about how bad the burritos are for an audience of anonymous peers. The anonymity also allowed for people to bully others without any consequence. A student in a college dining hall could make fun of another student’s sweater, or worst.

Elizabeth Long struggled with depression. She was open and honest about her struggles. Students at her school began talking about her on Yik Yak. “She (Elizabeth) needs to stop bitching about how she almost killed herself and go ahead and do it,” one poster wrote. Shortly thereafter Elizabeth landed in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt. The issue of cyberbullying got so bad that Yik Yak actually erected virtual walls around high schools across the United States, effectively making the app unusable while at school. While this curved some of the problems it did not stop the anonymous harassment and bullying.

In March Yik Yak took its first steps away from anonymity. Now users are required to have a username. More recently, researchers have discovered that Yik Yak is truly not anonymous, leading to a mass exodus of college students.

While Yik Yak has been proven to not be anonymous, many users still treat it as that way. Many of the postings on Yik Yak are the kind that people would only make if they were certain that the comments would not be attributed to them. If your child is on Yik Yak you may want to discuss the content they see. There is no way to filter out the hateful remarks and drug inquiries/sales. You may want to discuss the impact cyber bullying can have on someone through what they write. A simple Google search will reveal plenty of articles and examples of bullying on Yik Yak. You will want to make sure they are aware that what they post is not anonymous. This is crucial because teenagers make mistakes. There have been multiple instances where teens threatened to bomb or shoot up a school. They may have not intended on actually carrying out the action, but moments after pushing send the police showed up at their houses. Finally, if you know your child is on Yik Yak you may want to begin your own account so you can see what your child is saying and how people are responding.

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