Ask KidsPrivacy: Yik Yak in High Schools

yik yak feature Yik Yak is the #3 app on iTunes top free apps. On Yik Yak, people can anonymously share their thoughts, observations and comments. Ideally, Yik Yak is the digital equivalent of a message board in a college coffee shop. When the app trickled in to high schools, teens did not use it this way. Instead, students posted hateful comments about fellow classmates and teachers. Recently, I received a question about Yik Yak and how schools, parents and teens can work together to take control of it.

 


Q: What about YikYak, the anonymous service similar to twitter? Now that it’s in our community, how are schools and parents partnering to keep our kids safe?

yik yak issaquahA:  The appeal of Yik Yak is complete anonymity to say anything you want. Yik Yak does not even have usernames. I have more information about Yik Yak in my Parent’s Guide to Yik Yak, but here is a quick overview. Yik Yak does resemble a local twitter feed. Teens can share “Yaks” with other users who are within 1.5 miles of them. Yaks are short messages limited to 200 characters. Once posted, other users can reply to it or promote it within Yik Yak by voting it up or down. Upvoting is essentially a like and downvoting a dislike. They can also share Yaks on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

When Yik Yak first appeared, it gained notoriety for teens using it to post bomb threats and slam classmates. Police investigated these threats and schools rushed in to ban the app. In the face of this bad publicity, Yik Yak stepped in with its own solution. They chose to place geofences around all the middle schools and high schools in the US. A geofence shuts off all access to the app within 1.5 miles of the school.

yik yak high schoolYik Yak has placed geofences around 85% of all high schools and middle schools in the US. If your school does not have one, school administrators can contact Yik Yak and they will create one. Shutting off the app during school hours does reduce the reach of the app. Teens can still post after school but now it is seen by people 1.5 miles from their house. It is the difference between shouting in the school hallways vs. shouting on the street. Gossip can still spread but not as quickly or easily. Parents can also attempt to stop teens downloading this app at home by changing the restrictions on iTunes or GooglePlay.

Banning alone is not the solution. School, parents and students need to work together to change the culture around these anonymous apps. Teens need to realize that anonymity is not a license to say anything they want without repercussions. They are still responsible for their words. On Yik Yak, they are not as anonymous as they may think. When a student posted a bomb threat on this app, the police were able to find him and arrest him. All of our phones carry a unique device ID that can be traced. No one is completely anonymous online.

Teens have a role to play in governing the use of this app. Sometimes, kids are afraid to stick up for someone online because of the fear of reprisals. By speaking up, they can become the target of the abuse as well as unintentionally feed the internet fire. On Yik Yak, teens can moderate this feed without fear. They can downvote the type of content they don’t want to see without anyone knowing who they are. When a yak receives a score of -5, it is removed. If a person’s content is continually downvoted or flagged, Yik Yak will ban them. Furthermore, they can encourage the type of content they want to see by upvoting it.

While researching Yik Yak, I discovered another app that was already moving in to take its place and this one allows pictures. There is always a new app around the corner. Instead of chasing apps, communities need to come together to incorporate digital citizenship in schools, support parents on having the digital talk at home, and teach kids and teens the value of making good choices online. We are still developing social norms for a wired world, it is important to work together to create a supportive atmosphere for our children both online and off.

 

 For more information:

 

ESRB celebrates 20 years of Rating Games

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Gaming has come a long way in 20 years. In the early 90s, the picture of a gamer was usually a male in the early 20s sitting alone in front of computer screen for hours. Today, 59% of Americans play video games. Most of them are not playing alone. Gaming is becoming a social activity with people playing online with friends and families. While playing games is a great way for families to connect, it can also be a source of conflict. Many of the most popular games such as Halo or Call of Duty are not for kids. Sometimes, trying to find a game that works for the entire family is a challenge. Thankfully, the ESRB is there to help families make the right choice.

esrb rating mobileThe ESRB, Entertainment Software Review Board, is a non-profit, self-regulatory body that assigns ratings for video games and apps so parents can make informed choices. They began rating games back in 1994. Over the last 20 years, ESRB ratings have appeared on nearly every computer or video game sold at retail in North America.

The ESRB is more than just ratings. On their website and mobile app, parents can read reviews and find out the reasons behind the rating. In our house, I turn to the ESRB and Common Sense Media, when I have questions about a game. What I love is before my kids ask to play a game they check these sites as well.

Over the last few years, I have talked with Dona Fraser,Vice President of ESRB Privacy Certified, several times about protecting kids privacy while playing games as well as how to choose the best games for your family. She always has lots of great advice for parents. To celebrate ESRB’s 20th Anniversary, I have pinned some articles about games and kids.

Finally, the ESRB asked me to be a ESRB Parent Ambassador. I am excited to be a part of an amazing group of parent bloggers. Below is the list of the Ambassdors. (Thank you techsavvymama  for the list!) Please check out their blogs for more information on choosing and playing games safely.

ESRB PARENT AMBASSADORS

Monica Vila, The Online Mom

Mary Heston, Mrs. Video Games

Leticia Barr, Tech Savvy Mamas

Sarah Kimmel, Tech 4 Mommies

Tina Case, Parent Grapevine

Ana Picazo, Bongga Mom

Eric & Camila, Geek Junior

Anne Livingston, Kids Privacy

Caryn Bailey, Rockin’ Mama

Beth Blecherman, TechMamas

Kimberly Kauer, Silicon Valley Mamas

Kris Cain, Little Tech Girl

Lori Cunningham, Well Connected Mom

Kathleen Bailey, Gaggle of Gamers

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Talking with Kids about Online Privacy Settings

CSID_cyberSAFEBlogSeries-Backtoschool-01Thank you to CSID for inviting KidsPrivacy to take part in their Back to School Campaign! In the rush to join a new social network, kids often don’t take the time to investigate settings. Many popular apps will allow kids to open private accounts or choose to make a post private. Below is a link to my article where I discuss the different privacy options available on popular apps. For more information on privacy settings, check out my page containing Parenting Guides for Popular Apps and Websites.

Need more tips? On Thursday at 11 am (PSD) log on to Twitter and follow #IDTheftChat where CSID and Private Wifi will be talking about wi-fi at school and how to protect your child’s personal information.

 


Talking with Kids about Online Privacy Settings

Backtoschool_082514This guest blog post is a part of our cyberSAFE blog series focusing on back-to-school security, privacy and identity topics. It comes from Anne Livingston, the founder of Kids Privacy, which provides parents with information and resources to teach kids to share smart and stay safe online. This fall, she is publishing her first book – Talking Digital: Tips and Scripts for Parents Raising Kids in a Digital World.

When I download a new app, I like to figure it all out first. I take my time, look through settings, and read reviews. My kids have a different approach. They just dive in. Often, this means moving as rapidly as they can, ignoring the settings to get to the fun part. But taking time to explore the settings is a critical piece to protecting privacy.

In the past, teens were able to rely on privacy through obscurity. With so much information online, most communications were lost in a sea of content. Technology is developing faster and better ways to search. Now, people can look for things online via an image or location. These public photos and posts are becoming easier to find. This visibility can lead to unintended audiences. Parents should talk with their kids and teens about the importance of limiting information.

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