We don’t need “Yik Yak” in Worthington…

photo (60)Technology in our schools can be an awesome tool to personalize the learning experience and engage students.  Unfortunately some technology has a darkside.

Wednesday night a friend sent me a text asking me if I had ever heard of the app called “Yick Yack.”  I replied with a simple “no.”  I’d never heard of the app.  That changed quickly yesterday as I learned that a few students at Thomas Worthington High School were using Yik Yak in inappropriate ways.  Yesterday the anonymous users of the app spread the news of a potential threat and attempted to organize a fight.  In response to the disruption caused by the app, the Worthington police were enlisted to provide extra safety support, parents were notified of the negative effects of this app, and student leaders read a statement to the student body asking their peers to stop using this app.

An article from Fox News.com said that “According to ABC News: “Yik Yak works like an anonymous bulletin board, displaying messages from people in a user’s area that can be voted ‘up’ or ‘down’ on the page.  Tyler Droll, founder and CEO of Yik Yak, said the app was designed to be like ‘a city’s central plaza or campus bulletin board.’”

“‘Yik Yak users interact with everyone around them,’ Droll said.

“’Yakking’ is the welcoming, authentic and anonymous version of tweeting.”

Translation:  Anyone using Yik Yak can turn a school into a virtual chat room where everyone can post his or her comments, anonymously.  Untruthful, mean, character-assassinating short messages are immediately seen by all users in a specific geographic area.

Psychologically, Yik Yak actually removes all pretense of being a person with empathy, genuinely connected to other human beings.

So it is no wonder that Yik Yak has become the ultimate tool for bullies, especially at the high school level, who want to target another student or a faculty member and — without any consequences, whatsoever — anonymously destroy that person’s reputation.

A week ago, a private high school in Massachusetts experienced a 24-hour onslaught of ugly rumors and comments about students and administrators. School officials had to plead with the students to stop using their smartphones to ravage the self-esteem of others.

The person or persons who were responsible for all the “yakking” were never discovered.  No one could be punished.

All that was left to do, after the anonymous and vile comments were disseminated, was to try to heal.

A public high school in Massachusetts was evacuated twice last week after anonymous threats were made via Yik Yak.”

Schools in Chicago, Connecticut and California have reported serious disruptions, too, including shooting threats.”

In Worthington our disruption was not to the level of what is written about in this article.  However, the app has no redeeming qualities for high school students and poses both a social and emotional risk.  After working with Yik Yak they have agreed to put a digital fence around our secondary schools.  Students will no longer have the ability to access Yik Yak from the school location via our wi-fi or cellular network.  I appreciate that the company worked with the school district to protect our students while in school.  However, students who have downloaded the app will still have access to it outside of school.

My hope is that those who read this blog post will spread the word to parents across Worthington.  Please talk with your children and determine whether they have the Yik Yak app on their phone.  It is a personal decision whether or not you believe this app is appropriate for your child.  Hopefully after weighing the positives and negatives of the app a joint decision can be made that there are better apps available and this one can be deleted from Worthington.

-Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent



7 thoughts on “We don’t need “Yik Yak” in Worthington…

  1. Pingback: We don’t need “Yik Yak” in Worthington… | A Fine, Fine School!

  2. Trent, Thank you for your quick and appropriate action to keep our students digitally safe! Apps like this pop up so quickly that it is difficult to keep up. It is going to take the entire community working together to help our kids make good choices in this rapidly changing digital world!

  3. Amy Loring says:

    People become quite brave behind a computer screen. It is an unfortunate result of our society and the technology that is supposed to help us, and does, but can be an easy tool for a bully. At the school where I teach students have many opportunities to use technology, especially because most do not have access at home, and we have had several sticky situations. We are lucky enough to have an amazing and alert technology teacher who has set up safeguards to protect the students. She has had to “shut down” students in their tracks on occasion. It is like anything else, discover a new exciting way of doing something and then someone has to ruin it. I hope that Worthington continues to move forward with their digital world and not allow the bullies to stop the efforts.

  4. Ken M says:

    The way I explained to my kids:

    1. Don’t ever rely on the Internet to be anonymous.
    2. If the app is installed on your phone, I can’t protect you from anyone accusing you of misusing it.
    3. Before using a new app, think if its use can cause trouble. If yes, avoid it.

  5. First of all, I don’t even think *adults* should be allowed to leave anonymous comments. Civility, and civilization, benefits greatly when people have to live up to their words. So I don’t disagree with the policy, and kudos for being so on top of it.

    That said, this is an institution of learning, and my inclination is to ask what the kids can learn from this. Wouldn’t it be possible to get something positive out of this? Maybe set up class exercises in which some kids are anonymous and others aren’t, and let them find out what kind of behavior result from anonymity? Or maybe try to figure out why upvoting happens and what its effects are? I’d be really interested to know the results myself.

    It’s admirable that people focus so much on the dangers that these kinds of online environments represent for kids. But kids aren’t just vulnerable potential victims; they soak up information like sponges, and this strikes me as a great opportunity for everyone to learn something about the way the online world works.

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