Tag Archives: Yik Yak

Supervising Kids’ Cyber Lives: What Can Parents Do?

Like whack-a-moles, social media concerns pop up all over the school landscape. Middle school teachers and administrators often deal with cyber-bullying. Last spring, the anonymous app Yik Yak caused an uproar at Staples.

Recently, after a cyber-bullying incident via Instagram, an elementary school principal sent a letter to parents, then followed up with visits to each classroom. A parent at the school then sent this letter to “06880,” hoping to share it with a wide audience. Here it is:

Though Instagram requires children to be at least 13 years old, our children sign up, posting pictures and remarks which could lead to permanent consequences. A 10-year-old most likely does not understand the importance of reputation management. One inappropriate post can cause them a lifetime of unfortunate consequences, not to mention hurting other innocent people.

Instagram is not the only concern. Other social media vehicles (Facebook, Yik Yak, Twitter, Vine, to name a few) pose the same threat when misused.

Instagram is a popular social media platform for teenagers -- and younger children.

Instagram is a popular social media platform for teenagers — and younger children.

As parents we are in a tough spot, balancing granting our children the internet access their peers seem to have through mobile devices and computers with keeping them safe (not only from online predators but tarnishing their own reputations for unthoughtful behavior). Now the schools are asking our help in keeping our children’s cyber-activity responsible.

We can put on parental controls, talk to them about internet safety practices, even have them sign contracts. However, I think we need to take more responsibility to closely monitor their activity and be in the know of where our children really are online.

Giving our kids devices with internet access without supervising is no different than allowing them to throw a party, advising them not to drink and then voluntarily leaving the house. We need to choose to either prevent their access to devices that access the Internet (highly unlikely — most kids in our community have handheld devices by 11 or 12 years old, and at the very least a computer at home), or take responsibility to monitor their online activity across all devices.

cyber controls

Many friends ask me if I feel guilty looking at what my kids are doing online. My response? With the alarming increase in children’s cyber-crimes, I have a responsibility to be a parent and be in the know. While I don’t micromanage every last online action they take, I have the ability to  perform regular spot checks or at least check it any time I feel concerned.

We can’t afford not to monitor our children online as they access the internet, and especially as the internet accesses them. Too many cyber-crime stories involving children and unaware parents have been reported after it’s too late.  The risks are way too big.

What do you think? How do you monitor your children’s online activities? What’s appropriate for what ages? Click “Comments” below to contribute to this important conversation.

Lauren Kritzer: Let’s #YikYakYuck

Lauren Kritzer is a 2006 Staples grad. When she read about Yik Yak — the social media app that swept through Staples, stunning students with the virulence of anonymous posts — she was moved to respond. Lauren says:

I am the COO of a Manhattan-based platform innovation company, Applico. We started in 2009 as an app development company, so the impact of technology and innovation is nothing new for our clients and our business.

It is easy to be blindsided by innovation. News sources say Yik Yak “hits like a hurricane.” Didn’t Amazon hit like a hurricane? What about Netflix? The iPhone? SnapChat? Uber? Airbnb?

Lauren Kritzer, COO of a platform innovation company, is active in many educational and nonprofit initiatives.

Lauren Kritzer, COO of a platform innovation company, is active in many educational and nonprofit initiatives.

New York is trying to ban Airbnb, and I’m sure Blockbuster would have loved to make Netflix illegal. But you can’t prohibit innovation, any more than you can tell the average college student that drinking is banned on campus. Our approach is completely wrong.

This isn’t a hurricane; this is a wake-up call. When the principal of Staples was interviewed about Yik Yak, he said, “don’t look at it. If you don’t see it, it won’t bother you.”

But you can’t ignore the bullying, and you can’t ban the app. The plan to “geo-fence” (block people who access the app at school) will not work. These apps are powerful, easy to access, flexible and open. Not to mention, the students who are targeted can’t turn a blind eye and certainly can’t forget the damage that has already been done. So what should we do?

This is an online community like any other — Facebook, Twitter — but in its current iteration it is an abusive negative community. The people who make up that community are to blame, not the app itself.

Yik Yak

Let’s take back our community. We need to demonstrate to our students the power of their own voice in a positive way. We need to educate them about innovation, self-branding and the constructive use of technology. 

So we (young professionals, parents, teachers, principals) need to use Yik Yak in the right way!

I propose:

  1. Valedictorian Eliza Llewellyn should publish her entire graduation speech on Yik Yak in bite-sized pieces, in order to kick off this campaign.
  2. We should all start having our own positive daily conversation on Yik Yak, overwhelming the app and showing those who are bullied that the community is here for them. Let’s put the positive/bland comments on the top. Start liking!
  3. Hashtag #YikYakYuck on every post.
  4. Determine a campaign where YikYak will bring opportunities to students. Let’s show them there are two paths to go down – reactive or proactive.

We have been reactive — just like every student who read a hurtful YikYak post. They need leaders who can teach them how to be proactive. Open that app and don’t turn a blind eye. Show them how to use it to become a better version of themselves. We will not understand the changes in the school environment unless we join it and think steps ahead.

Guess what, Staples? We were hit with a hurricane, but the typhoon is coming and is far more powerful…so #YikYakYuck.

Lauren Kritzer in 2006. It's not that long ago -- but no one had ever heard of "apps."

Lauren Kritzer in 2006. It’s not that long ago — but no one had ever heard of “apps.”


Yik Yak: The Bad, The Ugly — And The Good

Last Thursday, for a few gruesome hours, Yik Yak swept through Staples High School.

For those who haven’t heard of it — and count yourselves lucky — Yik Yak is an app that allows anyone to post short messages.

Yik YakUnlike Twitter though, users are anonymous. And messages can be viewed only in a 1.5-mile radius. So each Yik Yak group is limited to a precise area — say, a school.

Which makes it fertile ground for gross, moronic comments about classmates, teachers and administrators.

Most of Thursday’s posts were astonishingly misogynistic. Others targeted blacks, Hispanics, Jews and gays.

Yik Yak offered a very disturbing look into the dark underbelly of the adolescent world. It’s a view adults seldom see.

Stuff that in the past appeared only on bathroom walls now infests cyberspace. Yet unlike graffiti, Yik Yak’s posts replicate virally. And unlike graffiti, they can’t be erased.

One of the milder posts on Yik Yak. (Not from the Staples version.)

One of the milder posts on Yik Yak. (Not from the Staples version.)

Several students — stunned at what they read about themselves — left class crying. Girls learned they are considered sluts, or obese pigs. Boys were threatened with violence because they are perceived to be gay. Principal John Dodig — who for 10 years has tried to create a safe, welcoming environment for all — was mocked too.

Dodig moved quickly, asking the IT staff to block the site. Soon, superintendent of schools Elliott Landon got Yik Yak to erect a “geo-fence” around it, blocking access in school. (Officials in other Fairfield County towns — and the city of Chicago — have done the same.)

Yik Yak disableBy Friday morning, Yik Yak was gone. The damage lived on though, in the form of students who were mortified to learn what others thought of them. Some did not want to come to school. Tears, humiliation, even terror continued over the weekend for some.

But this story is not about the hateful, incendiary comments some Stapleites — how many is unclear — posted about their classmates, teachers and administrators.

It’s about what happened afterward.

anti-bullyingDodig left school Thursday “disappointed and somewhat depressed.” His decade of work — trying to build a climate of inclusiveness and kindness, a school free of harassment for any reason — seemed to have crumbled.

On Friday he was scheduled for a meeting elsewhere. But he wanted to be visible. So between every class period, he stood in the halls. At lunch, he was near the cafeteria.

All day long, students approached him. Singly or in small groups, they spoke.

“I’m sorry we disappointed you.” “This isn’t who we are.” “You must feel terrible.” “This is an awesome school.” “I apologize on behalf of my classmates.”

Over and over and over again, Staples students did the right thing.

Driving home that afternoon, Dodig says, “I felt so much better. To see so many of these kids with the courage and strength of character to say this to their principal — it was very encouraging and reaffirming.”

John Dodig is a "superfan" of Staples students.

John Dodig is a “superfan” of Staples students.

Dodig’s mission as Staples principal is to try to make all 1,900 students feel known and loved, by at least one adult. He’s tried to provide a safe, warm and encouraging space for every single boy or girl who comes through the doors every morning.

The vile posts on Yik Yak last Thursday devastated him. The counter-response on Friday made him realize the positive effect he’s had on many.

Yet more work remains to be done. Dodig has encouraged his staff to continue to try to end harassment and bullying, whenever and wherever it occurs. He hopes parents, clergy and other adults in Westport will continue to do the same.

He knows it’s not easy.

And he knows that Yik Yak is not the end of the battle.

“There will always be some technology available that kids misuse,” Dodig says.

Hopefully, there will also be many more kids who — as they did last Friday — know good from evil, and right from wrong. And are not afraid to do the right thing.

(Staples senior Will Haskell — president of Staples Players — has written a brutally honest and spectacularly insightful piece, for New York Magazine. It was published earlier this afternoon on their website. Click here for an insider’s account of the havoc Yik Yak wrought.)