Yik Yak: A Social Media App That’s Unsafe for Kids and Teens

A couple months back, we reviewed a social media app called After School. Because the app allows teens to post anonymously, we raised the caution flag. We acknowledged, however, that After School’s developer does seem to have implemented some important safeguards to minimize inappropriate or dangerous content. Yik Yak is a different story.

Like After School, Yik Yak is a social media app that allows its users to post anonymously. Unlike After school, the app contains relatively few safety features to protect younger users.

In our professional opinion, Yik Yak is not an app most parents would want their children or teenagers to use. Read on to educate yourself about how the app works and what concerned parents can do to protect their kids.

How Yik Yak Works

Originally released in 2013, Yik Yak is a social media app that allows users to post anonymous messages to a message board that is determined by their geographical location. Anyone in a given geographical area can view, reply, and react to all posts on that area’s message board. Users can “upvote” (like) or “downvote” (dislike) other users’ posts. If a given post receives enough downvotes to reach a certain score, it is deleted. Users also receive a “Yakarma” score that is based on interactions with their posts.

Over the years, the app has added more features. Now, for instance, users can post photos, choose to use handles (usernames) or to remain anonymous, and view (but not post within) message boards for other locations. Overall, though, the key functions—anonymous messaging within a geographical location—remain the same.

Why It’s Not Safe for Kids and Teens

It doesn’t take much imagination to understand why Yik Yak—an anonymous message board without extensive safeguards—does not provide a safe space for kids or teens. Unsurprisingly, there has been a proliferation of cyberbullying and explicit content on the app, leading Common Sense Media to call it “a gossipy, lewd, crass online environment in which anything goes and users say anything about anybody.” Many school systems have banned it and developers have disabled the app on middle and high school campuses. Daystar Counseling Ministries, one of our partners, has cautioned parents against its use as well.

The developers advertise that the app is meant only for users 17 and older. But they do little to police this age limit. All a user has to do is download the app, and in some cases click a button to verify that they are 17 or older.

What You Can Do About It

Apps like Yik Yak are one of the reasons we recommend that parents work with a trusted IT partner to develop comprehensive internet safety plans for their families. These plans involve the right technical safeguards (parental controls, monitoring solutions, and content filters) to put appropriate guardrails around kids and teens’ online behavior and facilitate healthy lines of parent-child communication.

In this case, because Yik Yak is rated for users 17 and up, an internet safety plan that includes a careful configuration of a child or teen’s smart devices’ parental controls would prevent access to the app. Furthermore, social media monitoring tools may be implemented to alert a parent if an app like Yik Yak is in use, opening the door for a conversation between the parent and child about online dangers.

Regardless of the technical safeguards your IT partner puts in place, it’s important that parents maintain an awareness of the technology their kids and teens are using. If you have questions about Yik Yak or other apps, or would like to learn more about Affinity’s customized family internet safety plans, contact us today.