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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What 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 anyone using it in the same geographic area. It 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, and in 2016 the app moved to requiring users to create a username (or "handle") and profile, though both can still be anonymous and don't require users to provide their real names. Unless the user's location is toggled off for each post, it can be seen by others. According to the terms of service, 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: It's not appropriate for kids.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
Simply download the app and enable your device's location services to use YIK YAK, which will then let you post brief "yaks" about what you're up to or what you're interested in. As of 2016, users are required to create a username, and they're encouraged to create a profile with a photo, but neither are required, and there's no prompt to use your real name. Read other users' yaks, and tap the up or down arrows to "upvote" or "downvote" them. Other options include browsing local yaks by topic and following other users' yaks and connecting directly with users whose yaks appeal to you.
Is it any good?
Ultimately, this is 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 to 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. In fact, there's a whole category in the app's online FAQ section related to how the app is blocked on middle school and high school campuses nationwide. That alone should be endorsement enough of this app's serious destructive potential.
Though it 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 giving 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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Yik Yak's focus on anonymous and geotagged posts, which raises concerns about people 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.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.