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Yik Yak is today’s Anonymous Burn Book

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Yik Yak is the latest in a series of new anonymous apps. On Yik Yak, people have complete anonymity to share their uncensored thoughts, observations and comments. This app is designed to act as a local bulletin board for communities. Unfortunately, what many people use it for is to post mean and bitchy comments about other people.

yik yak feedYik Yak is like an anonymous local Twitter feed. It doesn’t require a username, password, or  login. You just download it and go. The only data Yik Yak needs is your location. Yaks (as these posts are called) are shared with the first 500 users within a 5 mile radius. Yaks are limited to 200 characters. Other users can reply to a yak or share it on Tumblr, Twitter, etc. They can also promote it within Yik Yak by voting it up or down. Yaks with the most up votes appear in the hot newsfeed.

This app is perfectly suited for school campuses. Schools have lots of people within a 5 mile radius who know each other and want to connect. Most students are not using Yik Yak as a local bulletin board. Several high schools were on lock down due to bomb threats on Yik Yak and others have banned the app due to cyberbullying.

Yik Yak is rated 17+ in the app store, for good reason. When I scrolled through Yik Yak, I found most people were either bragging about their sexual exploits or slamming someone else. Although authors enjoy anonymity, many of them had no problem using their target’s name.

yik yak high schoolThe app states in its rules, “Yaks should not join a herd until they are mature enough, so no one under college age should be on Yik Yak“. In an effort to keep high schoolers off, the company has geofenced areas around high schools and middle schools. So, students cannot access this app within school boundaries. Outside of school, teens can still post. Hopefully, limiting access within school hours will reduce the abuse on this app.

Anonymous apps are trendy now. Teenagers are looking to escape the curated images of Facebook and Instagram. But, some of these apps are not as anonymous or private as they may think. Parents should talk to teens about behaving responsibly all the time not just if an adult is watching.

What Parents should talk to teens about

Apps have age restrictions for a reason. Just like you wouldn’t let a kid see an R rated movie until their ready, they should not be on certain apps until they are older. In the case of Yik Yak, this is a really bad R rated movie – little character development and an awful plot.

Complete anonymity does not exist on the internet.  Everywhere they go they leave a footprint online. Even on Yik Yak, police were still able to identify and arrest the student who posted the bomb threat. Teens should always act responsibly online.

Never hide behind anonymity. It is OK to use anonymity to protect themselves and their personal information. It is not OK to use it to hurt others. It is cowardly to slam someone online. If they need to vent, they should talk to a friend in person. Online is not the place for blowing off steam. Because Yik Yak is shared within a school community, teens may think they are just joking around or being funny with their school friends. These “jokes” are rarely funny to the recipient. If they wouldn’t wear the funny joke on t-shirt to school, they should not post it online.

This is not a private playground. Yaks can be shared on other social networks and spread beyond 5 miles. What was a friend pranking them can become the internet dumping on them. Friends should be friends online and off. Remind teens if they see this type of behavior, don’t add to it by reblogging, favoriting, liking or upvoting. They can report inappropriate posts to Yik Yak. They can also talk to a parent or a trusted adult if they have problem or a question.

 For more information on Yik Yak, check out:

Friday Rewind – Generation Like, It’s Complicated, Security Tips

rewindHappy Friday!

On Friday, I am answering your questions and sharing helpful blogs and resources. So, if you have a question about kids living life online or a specific app, go to ask KidsPrivacy and watch for your answer in my weekly Friday roundup.This week, I have a few recommendations and some security tips.


Generation Like

In 2001, Frontline produced the documentary The Merchants of Cool, about how companies collected and used teenage data to design irresistible marketing campaigns. Now in 2014, Frontline has updated this documentary with Generation Like. It is a fascinating look at how social media has changed the landscape of marketing. In Merchants of Cool companies were designing marketing campaigns based on what teens considered cool. In Generation Like, teens are the marketers with companies using them to promote their products through likes.

As I watched this documentary, sometimes it seemed like teens were in on it and sometimes if felt more insidious. Some teens appeared to have mastered marketing with the rise of the teenage YouTube star. But, seeing how the movie studio strategically promoted the Hunger Games, teens looked more like pawns in an orchestrated marketing campaign. The studio strategically pushed content to create the feel of a grassroots campaign with teens doing the work of promoting the movie with their likes, tweets, posts and videos.

Parents were not immune to the pursuit of likes. One mother initially encouraged her daughter to show case her musical talent by posting YouTube videos of her singing. What started as a way to promote her talent became a chase for more and more likes. In the end, the music was pushed a side and the mother was encouraging “pool” shots because they generated more attention.

By the end of this show you will never look at liking something the same again.

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It’s Complicated

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After watching Generation Like, click on danah boy’s interview “the kids are alright“. danah is a Microsoft researcher who has spent the last 10 years talking with teens about living life online. If you have ever thrown your hands up wondering why your teen is doing this online, chances are danah has the answer. If you like her interview she has a new book out “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.”

Security Tips

This week, security companies and professionals gathered in San Francisco for the RSA Conference. During the conference, Stop Think Connect hosted a tweet chat to share security tips for individuals and families.  If you want to learn more on running a secure device and protecting information, check out these organizations.

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Friday Rewind – Kik and Unwanted Messages

rewindHappy Friday!

On Friday, I am answering your questions and sharing helpful blogs and resources. So, if you have a question about kids living life online or a specific app, go to ask KidsPrivacy and watch for your answer in my weekly Friday roundup.This week, I am answering a question about Kik and how to delete unwanted messages.


Q: I read that you should have your kids ignore new contacts and that kik stores these and they can delete them. Does the child have access to look at them before deleting them? My son recently was sent some inappropriate texts and pictures….if I could have him turn this feature on and he would not have access to them I would be okay w/ him keeping kik. However, if he can still go in and view them then I don’t feel that it’s really protecting him.


Yes. Kik does have an “Ignore New People” feature. Once this is enabled, Kik hides these messages in a separate conversation list. To enable this feature, go to the settings menu and select “Notifications”. In notifications, choose “Ignore New People”.

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New People can still send a message it is just kept separate. You can hide but you cannot eliminate them entirely. Your child can reduce the likelihood of receiving these messages by creating a username that is hard to guess and not posting their username on Facebook, Instagram or other social networks. 

If they do receive a message in their ignored conversation list, they can delete it. When someone they don’t know sends a message, they will see a number in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. To delete all these messages without reading them, tap on the number. This will display the “Ignored” conversation list. Don’t open these messages. Delete them all by tapping on the trash can in the top right corner.

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If you discover these messages are coming from the same user, your child can block them. To block someone, go to settings and select “Privacy”. From there, choose “Block List” and either enter the user name or tap the “+” sign and select the user you wish to block. Once someone is blocked, your child will no longer see their messages, all their conversations are deleted from your child’s Kik account and they are permanently removed from your child’s contact list.

If these messages violates Kik’s Acceptable Use Policy which includes content “that is harmful to minors in any way”, you can report it to Kik by sending them a message

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Kik knows they have a lot of teens using this app so they have published a Kik’s Guide for Parents. If you have other questions, check out Kik’s Help Center.