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:

 

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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.

Continue Reading….

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Back to School: 5 tips for getting your digital house in order

calendarI am not ready!  As you can see from my lack of posting I have enjoyed my summer. Although I have appreciated these quiet, relaxing summer days, I have dug a bit of hole for myself. This past week has been a mad scramble to turn in forms, dig through school supply bins and brave a trip to the mall. I am not only playing catch up in the real world, I have been a bit neglectful in the digital world as well. If you are like me and enjoyed summer perhaps a little too much, here a few tips for getting your digital house in order.


Create  or Update Family Media Rules/Device Contracts

One of the best digital parenting tools is to create a family media agreement and/or a device contract depending on the age of your child. If you have one already, now is the perfect time to review it. These contracts provide an opportunity for parents and kids to talk about expectations and values around online behavior.

Check in

After updating their contract, take a tour. Depending on your family’s contract, they can show you around or you can check it out yourself.  Either way, it is important that they are beside you so you can ask questions. This is not about getting them in trouble but creating an opportunity to guide them and talk about sharing smart and staying safe online.

Set new passwords

Parents should talk with kids and teens about the importance of setting and periodically changing passwords on their apps and devices. Kids and teens should not share passwords but some do. As the move on to a new grade, friendships may ebb and flow. So, the rule is new grade – new password.

Review Privacy Settings

Most kids are looking to share with their friends and classmates online not the entire world. Most apps have some privacy protections. They should make sure their privacy settings match their perception and when at all possible set their posts and profiles to private.

Update those apps

Kids should not ignore those updates for apps or their operating system on their devices. Many of these updates contain important security patches that will protect their device from viruses. While updating, remind them that malicious applications are often published outside of trusted app stores so kids should only download apps from legitimate sources.


For more back to school tips, check out…

Building a Digital Dialogue and Relationship with Our Kids – by a Platform for Good
Back-To-School Online Safety Tips for Families – by CSID
Family Tip Sheets – by CommonSense Media