What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Yik Yak is a free, local social-networking app and website that lets users post "anything and everything" anonymously, including a lot of explicit content that's clearly not for kids.Yik Yak users post brief, Twitter-like comments and photos, which are distributed to any 500 people using Yik Yak closest to them geographically (or more than 500 people, with in-app purchase).Yik Yak works via GPS to identify where the user is each time he or she opens the app and posts messages (called "yaks") to other nearby users. People read and "upvote" or "downvote" other people's posts to rate them. Message content ranges from simple questions ("Where are all the spring breakers?"), personal opinions, and local information to negative messages aimed at specific people, sexually explicit messages, and posts about seeking or using drugs and alcohol. In 2015, the app began allowing photo messages as well. Unless the user's location is toggled off for each post, it can be seen by others. According to Yik Yak's terms, users must be at least 17, although there's no age verification on the app itself (there's an initial content warning on the iTunes App Store that requires users to confirm they're 17 by tapping OK; there's no verification or warning on Android devices). Bottom line: Yik Yak is not appropriate for kids.
What's it about?
Simply download the app and your device's GPS coordinates to use YIK YAK, which will identify the 500 Yik Yak users closest to you to blast your "yaks." Tap on the message icon to post a yak of 200 characters or less or a photo. As of 2015, photos can't contain faces in an effort to contain potential bullying. Toggle to turn off your location or allow it to appear with the yak. Read other users' yaks, and tap the up or down arrows to "upvote" or "downvote" them. Other options include viewing your "Top Yaks," adding a handle to a yak, and more. (This review is based on an iOS device. The app looks and functions slightly differently on Android devices.)
Is it any good?
Yik Yak's just yucky. It's a gossipy, lewd, crass online environment in which anything goes and users say anything about anybody. Because some kids under the app's required age of 17 are using Yik Yak (and because there have been instances of users posting threats of violence against schools, which have prompted schools to ban the app or even sometimes close), access to Yik Yak reportedly has been blocked at some schools so messages can't be posted or received in or near that school.
Though Yik Yak may have been created as a way for college kids to locate the nearest local parties, bar deals, and other campus happenings, it's used by some to publicize their latest sexual escapades, complain about people by name, and lambaste teachers for too much homework. This app is not for anyone under 17 -- or anyone over 17 who cares about meaningful, respectful social networking. For parents, the most important fact is that much of the content here is not suitable for kids and may be harmful in cases of cyberbullying, explicit sexual content, unintended location sharing, and exposure to explicit information about drugs and alcohol. The addition of photo messaging in 2015 may increase opportunities to share iffy content, though no faces are allowed in pictures and the developers state that pictures will be moderated. Ultimately, this app is not for kids.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about Yik Yak's focus on anonymous posts, which raises concerns about using it to cyberbully others. Talk with your kid about how to prevent cyberbullying and read Common Sense Media's Parents' Top 10 Cyberbullying Questions.
Discuss with your kid why some apps such as this one have age restrictions and why it's important to honor them. Talking about why this app isn't appropriate for kids also may present a good opportunity to review Internet Safety: Rules of the Road for Kids.
No doubt about it: It's difficult to keep track of which social-networking apps are the latest, most popular ones with teens. It can help to use resources such as Common Sense Media and keep an open line of communication about your kids' online lives with them and with other parents and teachers at their schools.