A college in New Jersey is pursuing disciplinary action against students who spread a sex tape via Yik Yak without the subject’s permission. Two students at the University of Southern Mississippi were charged with felonies over posts made to Yik Yak in late September. In Atlanta, the city where Yik Yak is headquartered, Emory University’s student government just passed a resolution denouncing the app as “a platform for hate speech or harassment.” – The Washington Post 10.07.14  [click to read the full article]

Right when you thought that bullying couldn’t get any worse — meet Yik Yak. What is Yik Yak? Yik Yak is a smartphone app that allows anonymous posts. The app released last year allows people anonymously to create and view posts within a 1.5 mile radius of their current location.

DrPaulSocialMedia (2) purchased123RFInvented by Tyler Croll and Brooks Buffington, two graduates of Furman University in South Carolina, Yik Yak  was designed for college students so that they could post anonymous “yaks”.  It has become incredibly popular with young people in the United States.

Most recently the app “geofenced” high school campuses in the United States. Meaning the app recognizes when you are trying to access it while on school property, and it doesn’t allow it.

The problem with a social media app that allows anonymous postings is the potential for cyberbullying. Bullying is seen in all age groups, starting even in the preschool years, increasing during the elementary school years, and peaking in middle school and junior high before declining somewhat in high school. The key issue in bullying is that the intimidation repeatedly occurs.

Cyberbullying takes bullying to a whole new level. Words can hurt and for young people who are the victims of cyberbullying it is very difficult to overcome the day-to-day harassment. Even if you choose not to engage on social media, you still can be cyberbullied. Sadly, other students will tell you what is being posted about you online. Some will tell you out of genuine concern; others are just gossiping, and yet others are doing so to perpetuate the bullying.

There is not a lot a person can do to stop cyberbullying, other than to report it to the appropriate school administrators or to law enforcement. With the anonymous Yik Yak, it is much more difficult to find the real person behind the post as the app requires very little information when you sign up. Only a phone number is needed.

If your child is being cyberbullied, there are things you can do to help them to deal with it. The first is to encourage him/her to talk to you about it. Together you should discuss how to handle it. Listen to your child and try to understand the feelings and fears that go along with being the subject of cyberbullying.

Secondly, you should reach out to the proper mental health officials. Whether it is at school or through your pediatrician’s office, you need to make sure that your child has a place to go to discuss the situation. A mental health professional will provide tools for them to put in their toolbox that will help them to overcome and deal with what is being said about them. The more confident and self-assured your child becomes, the easier it will be to deal with this.

Here is a good link for parents and teens dealing with cyberbullying.  Tips to Help Stop Cyberbullying is from ConnectSafely.org, a Silicon Valley, Calif.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to educating users of connected technology about safety, privacy and security in social media.

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.