Yik Yak, you may have heard of it but you probably haven’t heard good things. It’s an app that allows users to post in a geographical area (usually a university campus) anonymously; the app is intended for university students and comes with an age restriction of 17.
Yik Yak does not want school children using the app, but of course they are and here lies the challenge… Anonymous posting in a school environment? You can see where it might go wrong! Obviously it’s likely that if Yik Yak is used within a school it could enable some serious bullying with little accountability, it can cause havoc much like the early days of Ask.FM.
Some might say why even have apps that allow you post anonymously? Surely it’s bound to bring out the worst in people? Not always, anonymous apps like this can actually have a really positive impact and help young people explore aspects of themselves they may not yet feel comfortable expressing in the “real world” . For example a young person questioning their sexuality or gender could use anonymous sites and apps to try out their chosen identity and see if it fits them.
When it comes to accountability there is really no such thing as being truly anonymous, when you create your account for Yik Yak it can only be done using your mobile phone number, much in the same way WhatsApp works. So if someone terrible were to use Yik Yak to enable their terribleness, with sufficient reason the police can request user information from Yik Yak and a mobile number is far more identifying than an email address.
To dispel some of the myth of what has been dubbed on Common Sense Media as a “Gossipy, crass anonymous app” I’ve logged on to Yik Yak and this is some of what I found...
People who need support, and get it. Quite a heart-warming read (especially when you know what the students are like in my city).
.. And answers to some of life’s burning questions..
So Yik Yak, it’s really not all bad but I think we can agree that perhaps the responsibility that comes with anonymous posting in this way may be too great for all school children and access to this app should be prevented in schools. Well, there’s a really easy fix for that!
Some years ago, Yik Yak came to us and asked for help with locating schools in the UK so that they could ring fence and block access, we then provided them with a comprehensive list of school addresses, however some schools have several sites, and with the influx of academies there isn’t yet a full list of every school. This means that despite best efforts you can still access Yik Yak in some schools, fortunately there is a really easy form to fill out on their website; https://www.yikyak.com/support/requests/geofence Here you can fill out the location of the school and it will quickly be geo-fenced off.
We were challenged at an Online Safety Briefing last week where a delegate suggested the Professionals Online Safety Helpline had not provided sufficient advice and support to a school trying to get Yik Yak geo-fenced. They had read somewhere that this could only be done in the US and the helpline had therefore provided incorrect advice, we would just like to make it clear the advice we gave was correct and Yik Yak can be ringfenced in the UK as well as the US.