Volume 12 Week 5

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Bob Monette

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(Updated 1:30 p.m., Jan. 17)
Latest social media app blamed on spat of high school fire alarms
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Students at four Orléans high schools had their classes interrupted by fire alarms on Thursday thanks to what authorities are blaming on the latest social media phone app.

The first fire alarm was sounded at École secondaire Beatrice-Desloges at 1:05 p.m. Twenty-one minutes later a fire alarm went off at St. Peter High School on Charlemagne Blvd. Forty-five minutes after that a fire alarm was sounded at École secondaire Gisele-Lalonde. Then, 26 minutes later the fire alarm went off at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School on Tenth Line Road.

Police believe the series of alarms began with a dare posted on Yik Yak, a new phone app launched a little over a year ago that has been steadily gaining popularity among area high school students .

Yik Yak is similar to Twitter, with the added appeal of total anonymity.

At least one student at Beatrice-Desloges confirmed to CFRA that someone made a dare to pull the fire alarm at the school if they received 100 likes on the new app. They did and moments later the alarm went off.

Police believe copy cat dares resulted in the fire alarms at the other three schools.

But daring people to pull fire alarms is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential damage Yik Yak can have on people and especially teenagers bent on bullying their peers.

When enough people became outraged over cyberbullying on Facebook and Twitter, the two social media sites introduced anti-bullying policies. Yik Yak has no such policy.

Members can use aliases and avatars that completely conceal their identities, making it possible for them to spread rumours with complete anonymity.

Anyone with an Android or iOS platform download the Yik Yak app. Once downloaded, users can view a personal newsfeed populated by posts, or ‘Yaks’, submitted by other users within a 2.4-kilometre radius known as a ‘herd’. What makes the app so popular among cyberbullies, is that you don't have to sign in or create a user name to write a "Yak" making posts completely anonymous.

The app was initially intended for university students to discuss lectures and other course material. It was very quickly usurped by young people who feel a need to post material anonymously within their own geographic location.

Yik Yak’s user rules prohibit bullying and cluttering the message feed “with useless or offensive yaks", but the rule is broken on a daily basis. Despite the promise of anonymity, users who use the app to commit a crime can still be tracked down. Several Yik Yak users have been arrested and charged in the United States for uttering bomb threats over the app.

The app has gained so much notoriety that more than 77,000 people have signed a petition to shut it down, and the region's four school boards have all blocked Yik Yak on their wi-fi networks. Unfortunately, students with data accounts can still use the app on school grounds.

Parents of teens who have data accounts are being encouraged to discuss the responsible use of smart phones with their kids and in particular the dangers of Yik Yak.

To find out more visit http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/thousands-want-gossip-app-yik-yak-shut-down-1.2135106.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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