Why the Yik Yak social network spells big trouble for schools
**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**
A guest post by Karl Rivers
As much as we’d like to, it’s impossible for schools to keep up with changing trends in social media. New apps are released faster that schools can react, and are often used by students unpredictable ways. The one thing that is predictable, however, is that anonymity and an immature mind do not make a good concoction.
What is Yik Yak?
The latest social network to cause a controversy in schools is Yik Yak. If you haven’t already heard of it you’re going to in the coming months. Yik Yak is a social network, similar to Twitter, but with two defining features — posting messages is completely anonymous, and Yik Yak only shows messages posted from your immediate location. Yik Yak is a hyperlocal, anonymous Twitter.
Getting set up with Yik Yak is literally a case of installing the app on a phone or tablet. There’s no sign up or login process, you just open the app which immediately displays conversations going on around you in real-time.
The dark side of anonymity
Since its initial release Yik Yak has been used to report hoax bomb threats, make death threats against students, and has been the subject of numerous police cases. In the US Yik Yak has already been tied to a number of serious bullying cases which caused such concern that the app developers have begun to geofence — or blacklist — entire school sites to prevent the app being used by students.
Yik Yak was developed by two Furman University students, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, to help university students communicate. Students could post about university and events, share complaints, news, and the type of information that makes campus life a little easier. The problem was the concept of having an anonymous voice coupled with Yik Yak’s ease of use quickly turned it into a social virus. The app is reported to have spread like wildfire among students at several schools once people learned about it.
How to block Yik Yak in your school
So, how do you check if Yik Yak is blocked in your school? Well, luckily it’s really simple. The app developers claim to have geofenced most schools in the US and UK. But this data is pulled from a third-party list and may not be entirely accurate. The best way to check is to install the app on your phone and walk your school site. If your can still use Yik Yak at your school you can request a new geofence to be added or a current one adjusted using the Yik Yak support pages.
Is Yik Yak blocked at your school?
Yik Yak is just the latest in a long line of social networking apps that push the boundaries of school policy. Yik Yak isn’t the first, and won’t be the last, but it’s good to see developers actively working with schools to discourage bullying Is your school geofenced against Yik Yak?
**This piece originally appeared on ClassThink and has been republished with permission**
Karl is an award winning school Network Manager, IT Lead Professional for Bedfordshire Borough Council, and is an ICT Across the Curriculum Co-ordinator based near London, England. He has been working in education for more than ten years and founded ClassThink in 2013 to share technology best practice with other schools. In 2014 he won the NAACE Impact Award for support services in schools, and writes edtech articles for Education Executive Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @karlrivers.
Dr. Lynch is an award winning writer, activist and the Dean of the School of Education, Psychology, & Social Work and an Associate Professor of Education at Virginia Union University. He spent seven years as a K-12 teacher – an experience that gave him an intimate view of the challenges facing genuine education reform.
With that experience behind him, he has focused the second stage of his career on researching topics related to education reform, the achievement gap, and teacher education. What Dr. Lynch has found is that improving teacher education is an essential component in closing the achievement gap.
Dr. Lynch's articles and op eds appear regularly in the Huffington Post, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, and Education Week. He's also written numerous peer-reviewed articles, which have appeared in academic journals such as AASA Journal of Scholarship & Practice, International Journal of Progressive Education, Academic Leadership Journal, and others. In addition, he has authored and edited a number of books on school reform and school leadership.
Please visit his website at www.drmattlynch.com for more information.