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Cyberbullying? There’s an App for That

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When you think of the forms bullying can take, a public bulletin board probably isn’t the first thing to come to mind. Yet that’s basically what Yik Yak is: an app that allows users to post messages anonymously to be seen by anyone in the area.

The problem with Yik Yak is that, though it can be really useful for knowing what’s going on in your community, some people have been using it to hurt and threaten others including a few threats that led to school shutdowns and evacuations.

The app’s developers, a couple of recent college graduates, originally intended Yik Yak to be used by college students to tell each other what’s going on in their area but high school students have been using the app anyway. The app requires that you be 17 years old or older to use their services but, as with all online services, it’s not easy to verify that their users are really 18.

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It’s sad to hear that an app that could have been a great tool for strengthening communities has been so misused but, as it is, this is one app your child shouldn’t have. Yik Yak’s developers are working to address these concerns but until the issue is resolved, you should:

  1. Talk to your older teens about why this app is a problem. It’s a great opportunity for a conversation that covers the side effects of anonymous behavior online, cyberbullying, and the importance of everyone learning the right way to interact with others online.
  2. For your younger kids and teens, enable their devices so that they are optimized to provide an age appropriate experience for your child by not allowing apps meant for those 17 or older to be downloaded in the first place. Apple does a great job of making this easy to do on all of their devices. Follow these simple instructions. If your child has an Android device, unfortunately the same type of settings don’t exist. Another reason to be involved with, and review, the apps your child downloads.

While you’re talking to your children about the importance of a healthy environment, have them download the Yoursphere app. It’s a great way for them to experience first hand how fun it can be using an app where the members treat one another with kindness and respect.

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