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.

 

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Cloud

Dont’ Miss an Opportunity to Talk about Security

CloudOne of the best ways to reach teens is to share with them a real world example. When talking to my kids I use a lot of stories from the news. For example when talking about digital reputation, I showed them “My Embarrassing Photo went Viral.” This weekend, we talked about the celebrity hacking scandal and what kids can do to keep their devices and accounts secure.

Last week, explicit photographs of 100 female celebrities were leaked online. These photographs came from a group of hackers who collected and traded nude pictures online. How they attained these pictures was by breaking into the celebrity’s Apple iCloud account. Reportedly, these hackers were able to access these personal accounts repeatedly and download pictures.

How did the hackers break in? According to Apple, “celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet.” In this case, hackers gained as much data as possible from public social media accounts and used it to find emails, guess passwords and security questions.

Most of these celebrities were probably unaware their pictures were even stored on iCloud. iCloud is a backup system which automatically saves digital photos, calendars etc. When someone takes a picture with their mobile phone it is automatically uploaded and stored in their iCloud account. Even if they deleted it off their phone, it could still be in iCloud. The benefit to an automatic backup is if someone loses their phone, they would not lose everything.

You can turn off these automatic backups. Without the automatic backup, if they lose their phone and haven’t downloaded their pictures, they could lose all their digital photos. I know many teens who have lost their phone or accidentally broken it. Given the likelihood of something happening to their phone, a better alternative may be to increase security.

Parents should share with their kids how to  improve security on their end by:

  • Setting a Strong Password – An easy password is like closing the door without locking it. Teens and kids should always use strong passwords for their accounts and devices. Never use common passwords like “password” or “1234”. Choose passwords that are hard to guess with both letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Choosing unique passwords – Once you have that strong password do not use it for every account. If someone happens to guess or sees your password they will now have access to all your accounts. Every account should have a unique password
  • Turning on 2 factor identification – Once this feature is turned on, a person trying to access an account has to enter a password plus a code before they can login to an iCloud or Google Account. This unique code is sent to a trusted device chosen in advance by the user. Some popular apps, such as facebook, twitter and tumblr  also offer 2 factor security.
  • Watching the oversharing – Keep answers to security questions off social media or don’t use real answers to your security questions. Let’s say your favorite singer is Taylor Swift, the answer to the security question “who is your favorite singer” could be Kanye West.

Finally, it is not bad idea to remind kids there is no such thing as a private digital photo. Even with apps like Snapchat, a photo doesn’t truly disappear. Nothing is 100% private in the digital world.

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Ask Kids Privacy: Question about Privacy on Kik

kik logo

Kik is a messenger service app that is popular with teens and Ask KidsPrivacy has received questions from readers about monitoring, unwanted messages and accessing kik. This week, I received a question about kik and privacy. Kik does not have private and public accounts but teens can protect their privacy by managing their contacts and not sharing their username. Below are some helpful tips on privacy and kik. If you have other questions, kik has an excellent Parent Guide and Help Center.


Q: How do you put your kik on private so that only people you want can see it ?

A: Kik does not have private and public accounts like Instagram or Twitter. On kik, anyone who knows your username can send you a message and see your profile. In order to keep your profile private, kik recommends users protect their privacy by:

  • Choosing a username that’s hard to guess. Do not use the same username for all your social network accounts. Your kik username should be different from your instagram, twitter or  tumblr accounts. Kik also recommends choosing a name that incorporates letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Keeping your username name private by not sharing it publicly. Do not post #kikme messages on public networks such as twitter or instagram. Once you share your username, anyone who sees it can send you a message. Only share your username with friends and family and ask them not to share your username.
  • Using the Block and New People features to manage messages. You should turn on “Ignore New People” under Notifications. This will send all new contacts to a separate list that can be deleted. You can also block a contact which will hide all messages from this person.  For more information on these features, check out How can I keep my Kik account private? from the Kik Help Center.

Remember, kik has no logout button. If someone has access to your phone, they can go in to your kik account. You should always set a password on your phone. You can also force a logout by resetting kik but resetting will not only log you out it will wipe your conversation history deleting all your messages. For more helpful tips, check out a platformforgood’s safety tips for kik.