Cyberbullying is not a new concept, and it continues to evolve as to new emerging technology making it even easier than before. Apps that allow for anonymous messaging are on the rise in a culture where online privacy is becoming a thing of the past, and online bullies are using those resources to their advantage.
Yik Yak is one of the latest anonymous messaging apps to hit the market. It allows users in the immediate area to connect, or “yak”, anonymously through a live messaging feed. It recently secured $10 million in funding, which will enable international expansion for the company, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Founders Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll believe that Yik Yak will have an important, positive global impact.
“Yik Yak allows the truth to come out unfettered by identity,” said Tim Draper, founder and managing director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson. “Free speech without the backlash from the thought police. I expect this company to make a big impact on the world.”
However, what Draper and his co-founders didn’t anticipate was their app would be used to bully high school students, which is exactly what’s happening despite the app being blocked at 85% of high schools in the country, reports Claire Williams from The Charlotte News & Observer.
The Friday before Memorial Day weekend, the app boomed in popularity at Myer Park High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. The app was being updated with derogatory messages targeting students and teachers alike at a rapid pace.
While many administrators struggle to find a solution to the cyberbullying problem, there are faculty- and student-run groups emerging to make school a more positive environment.
Illinois’ Glenbrook South High School offers a class called Media Collage to help students develop a healthy digital routine and portray positivity online, reports Todd Shields of Glenview Announcements.
Students from the class created a video that addresses the detriments of Yik Yak called “Real Life Yik Yak”. The video portrays three students wearing signs with derogatory words on them and records the shocked reactions of their fellow classmates.
“Some students who saw us in the hallway were confused and others believed Yik Yak was terrible. Others said we were not what our signs said,” explained Gary Zucker, one of the three student performers.
New Jersey’s Ridgewood High School, another campus which has tfelt the effects of Yik Yak, turned to the students for their thoughts on what should be done about improving student culture, reports Laura Herzog for website North Jersey.
According to the students, there is a big problem when anonymity enters the social media picture. And it’s rooted in deeper issues within the school – namely, a lack of empathy and unity and a silent majority that struggles with speaking out.
The students suggested that they run a campaign making people aware of how powerful their words can be, suggesting it might sink in to some classmates who forget how much power they hold as a group.