Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Rise of Anonymous Social Media


  • Anonymous social media apps are increasingly used to bully and threaten others nearby
  • Posts are not truly anonymous - law enforcement can track down users
  • Parents should monitor what apps their kids are using, and discuss appropriate behavior when posting online

Social media goes anonymous and gets mean

Though people on the internet have long hidden behind usernames and fake email addresses, a new breed of anonymous social media, apps such as YikYak and Whisper, don't even require a user to create an account (though YikYak does require users to be 18 years old). Rather than following other users, what you see is based on your location, e.g., when someone posts to YikYak, all other users within a 10 mile radius see the post.

With their identity seemingly hidden and no victim to face, it's easier for people to engage in behavior that is hurtful, violent, and sometimes illegal. As a result, many schools are facing significant problems from these apps. However, like anything else on the internet, nothing is truly anonymous; law enforcement can retrieve unique information about a post - namely IP address and GPS coordinates - that enable them to track the author of a post.

What you can do

Apps and websites are created and fall out favor just as quickly as the football team can polish off a pizza, and it's impossible to block every inappropriate app or website. So while it is important for parents to monitor their kids' devices and the apps they use, it's even more important to keep an on-going conversation about appropriate online behavior.

Talk with your kids about the effects bullying have on them and their peers, about how a joke or sarcastic comment may be misinterpreted by the recipient, and about how easily a post can cross the line into being a crime. As always, it's good to remind kids about their digital tattoo, i.e. anything they post online is permanently attached to them for the rest of their lives.

For more information on social media and appropriate online behavior, see our online Social Media course and the Digital Citizenship section of the Student Technology Wiki.

Links in this article

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Free Online Course: Social Media 101

Social media is an increasingly significant component of digital citizenship. To help parents and students use social media tools safely and legally, we've created an online course: Social Media 101. The course will continue to evolve and become part of a larger digital citizenship course - you can help us by submitting suggestions via the feedback form on the course.