Yik Yak app blocked from school


Humera Lodhi

In the photo above, RBHS Principal Dr. Jennifer Rukstad talks with police officers during the modified lockdown caused by an anonymous threat on Yik Yak last month. Photo by Devesh Kumar.
Recently, an app named Yik Yak gained attention in Columbia when it was used to send a bomb threat to. Since then, numerous teachers, students, and faculty have looked into the repercussions of such an app.
The Yik Yak app is simple: it allows anyone to post statements anonymously. Users can then read statements of others in their location, and then up-vote and down-vote the statements; also anonymously. While created for college students and campuses, the Yik Yak app has spread rapidly across high school and middle school campuses as well.
Created by Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll, the Yik Yak app was originally intented by the creators to be a “blank slate” for the “random thoughts” of college students. However, the app is being abused by many teens, and is being used to bully and harass others.
“The ability to have anonymous, proximity-based access to social media is appealing to younger audiences,” Baumstark said. “However, students were not making appropriate choices when using the application and many are in violation of our policies as well as Yik Yak’s policies.”
Yik Yak, which soon realized it’s app was being used by more than just college students, has since taken steps to protect these younger students. It created a policy restricting app usage to those over 17. In order to enforce this policy, the Yik Yak app, working with Maponics, has been creating geofences around high school and middle schools. People cannot access the app when they are within these geofences. Maponics was not available for comment on their geofencing methods.
“Yik Yak has a system that allows geofences to block users in certain areas. Many social media sites or applications do not have this option.” Baumstark said. “Additionally, nearly 130,000 schools from across the country have now blocked Yik Yak from being used on or near their campuses.”
When Rock Bridge High School was threatened, Columbia Public School requested the app be blocked from all secondary schools in the district. The district has succeed in blocking the app from school premises. Now, when students try to access the app in school they are greeted with the message: “You appear to be using this to close to a school. Yik Yap is for adults only.”
Some students were upset about the restriction of the Yik Yak app from school premises. However, both Baumstark and Principal Jennifer Ruckstad feel it is necessary for the safety of the students.
“Based on what we were seeing when it [the Yik Yak app] first arrived, it is concerning to me,” Ruckstad said. “The bullying on there [the app] was pretty nasty stuff. It frustrates me that students aren’t able to think two steps beyond themselves.”
The incident with the Yik Yak app was not the first problem with social media and technology that the district has faced. Even within Rock Bridge, their have been other cases of inappropriate technology uses, especially on twitter Dr. Ruckstad said. Often times, students feel the anonymity of the internet will protect them from facing consequences, but this is not necessarily the case.
“Bullying is bullying,” Ruckstad said. “ Whether or not it [harassment] happens on school property, if it causes an educational disruption, which it will, then we will take action.”
By Humera Lodhi