Yik Yak, don’t come back: SM East students, admin rally to counter cyberbullying

"If you see a picture of a yak on your kid's phone, it's time to have a talk with them," said SM East principal John McKinney.
“If you see a picture of a yak on your kid’s phone, it’s time to have a talk with them,” said SM East principal John McKinney.

An organized response to a relatively new social media tool at SM East last week appears to have quelled negative use of the app at the school — and buoyed administrators’ confidence in the student community’s ability to fight cyberbullying.

SM East principal John McKinney said his office first heard about use of the new app, called Yik Yak, last Wednesday. The app allows people to post comments anonymously based on their location, and anyone within the same vicinity can view those comments.

“When students brought it to our attention that this was first being used at the school, we checked into it, and saw that there were some comments on there that were getting disrespectful,” McKinney said.

Because the app can use a phone’s cell phone signal — as opposed to WiFi — for data transmission, the administration had no way to block its use on school property. Instead, the administrators and a group of students began posting positive comments on the site, and encouraged others to “upvote” those positive comments so they would display at the top of the Yik Yak message feed. Within a day, McKinney says, negative use of the app at SM East dwindled substantially.

“We’ve worked very hard to create an environment that’s welcoming and compassionate to everyone who is here,” he said. “And when we started talking with the students about this issue, we knew they wouldn’t stand for it. They took it from there. I was really proud of the way they handled it.”

Yik Yak has caused problems at high schools across the country since being released. Last month a school in Trussville, Ala., scrambled to respond to student use of the app, with administrators saying it had hit them like “a ton of bricks.”

A review of the app’s feed in northeast Johnson County shows that it has been picked up by students at Blue Valley North and Bishop Miege as well.

“If you see a picture of a yak on your kid’s phone, it’s time to have a talk with them,” McKinney said.