This post originally appeared on the blog of Dan Pais, a BHS senior. Dan is a student athlete and leader, member of DECA, Best Buddies, and the TED ED Club. He is a first year team member of the Help Desk program. His post below has an important and powerful lesson on what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. I hope that you will share Dan’s perspective with all the stakeholders of your school community.
A new craze has struck the North and South shores of Massachusetts in recent weeks, and this would be the relatively unique app known as Yik Yak. Originally designed for the use of college students looking to post updates about campus news, the app has found its way onto the devices of young adults in high school and middle school. According to the description on the App Store, Yik Yak is a “local bulletin board for your area by showing the most recent posts from other users around you.” Using the GPS in your device, the app is able to display all posts within a 1.5 mile radius in a Twitter-like format.
In an interview with the Today Morning Show, co-founders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington stated that the app was created to “help connect people in a creative way.” But there’s one question that these two co-founders have neglected to answer, and that is: How can people truly connect with one another without actually knowing who they are connecting with?
The one thing you have to know about this app before you download it is that there are no names, no locations, no faces, no privacies whatsoever. Everything that is “Yak’d” in your area is 100% anonymous. And this poses a BIG problem; since Yaks are anonymous, it provides an open gateway for cyber bullying to occur. And the worst part? Once someone creates a Yak about you, it is there until the Yak receives a certain amount of dislikes, then the posting gets deleted automatically. Users are allowed to comment on Yaks as well, and comments may also get deleted once they receive a certain amount of dislikes. Before you post a Yak, you are greeted by a list of 6 mandatory rules that you must follow always, and all you have to is simply hit the “Agree” button in the top right hand corner of your device.
I first heard about this app from some of my friends who live on the South Shore. Apparently, things got so out of hand in the town of Hingham that the police had to step in and take control. Now, not only is the app banned from public schools in Hingham, but the police are monitoring all Yaks in the area. The same story can be said about towns such as Quincy, Marblehead, and Hanover, as all of these towns have had cases of cyber bullying, school threats, and even suicidal comments all on Yik Yak outside of school.
But how does all this affect BHS? Well, the app is only starting to grow amongst students (even though it was released last December), and negative posts have already been surfaced in Burlington.
Whenever you try and access Yik Yak at BHS or near any public school grounds, you receive this message:
Still, although the message states that the Yik Yak is made for the use of “adults only”, what stops a middle or even high schooler from downloading and using the app when it fails to ask for your age or date of birth?
Now, personally, having been on the other end of cyber bullying as a kid, I would try my best to stay away from such an app because it can be used as a tool of absolute destruction towards someone. Used correctly, I think that this app would be an absolute hit in town by posting updates about school events and other such happenings. But it only takes a handful of people to turn an app with good intentions into one that can be utilized for hostile motives.
DPais Rating: 2/10
Reasoning: Although it looks user friendly and may have been a great idea on paper, the lack of thought towards how it may be used negatively in a public school setting in the cyber bullying environment we live in today, plus the fact that there is no necessity for registering for an account have earned Yik Yak a 2/10 on my scale. Stick to Twitter ladies and gents.