Yik Yak and Secret: 2 more anonymous social apps parents need to watch out for on their kids’ phones.

Yik-Yak app on Cool Mom Tech

We keep a close eye on the social apps gaining popularity,  not just because we publish a tech site for parents, but because we want to know what apps our own kids might hear about, especially before they start using them and possibly get into trouble. That’s why we’ve been alerting you to apps parents need to know about.

Two of the apps we’ve been watching lately that parents should know about are Secret and YikYak. So you can add them to your list along with Snapchat,  selfie.im, ask.fm and the others. Secret and YikYak are both anonymous social networking apps that use location services to share posts within a certain geographic radius. Ironically enough, that makes it easier to identify who’s posting and what they’re talking about. So much for anonymity.

YikYak

The YikYak app started on the campus of Furman University in South Carolina last fall, but it’s been spreading up the east coast and toward the midwest. While the founders insist that it’s intended for college students and that anonymity means “the only thing you are judged on is the content that you have created,” YikYak has already caused enough trouble that high schools from Alabama to Illinois have banned it. In fact, a high school north of Boston was evacuated twice due to bomb threats made via the app.

And while the app has “strict rules” about mentioning full names and bullying, you can tell from this screenshot from Tech Faster that they aren’t quite so strict.

 

Yik Yak app via Tech faster | Cool Mom Tech

While the posters on YikYak may be anonymous, targets of posts are decidedly not, and posts aren’t screened for identifying information before they’re broadcast to the nearest 500 users. You can even pay to extend your reach — up to 10,000 users for $4.99–as if in-app purchases aren’t a problem enough, now kids can use them to bully other kids.

Basically, YikYak took  “for a good time call…” off the locker room wall and put them into an app.

Secret app

Secret is another social sharing app, and while it may be prettier than YikYak, the two apps are actually quite similar. It was originally started as a way for an inside group of San Francisco social media users to be able to talk “anonymously” about one another, which you can then broadcast to anyone using the app who has your phone number. So you can see where this is going.

Secret app | Cool Mom Tech

The founders claim it’s the social media network introverts, but it seems to us that it harnesses everything awful about internet anonymity and puts it to work. That said, the anonymity is dubious, especially now that Secret has added a “nearby” feature in settings, allowing users to see the most popular secrets in a local area.

Like YikYak, Secret users can vote posts up or down, which broadens their audience. The content isn’t much better either; according to a post described by the Wall Street Journal, “Secret is like being drunk on Facebook with no consequences.” And though we haven’t seen Secret implicated in any bomb threats, one Secret poster started a rumor that Evernote was about to be acquired–a rumor that Evernote’s CEO had to take to Twitter to deny.

Secret app anonymous confessions | Cool Mom Tech

Just before SXSWi, Secret pushed out an update allowing users to share posts via Twitter and Facebook. The feedback has been mixed, with users complaining that it appears they are sharing their own Secret posts, instead of someone else’s. But this feature only indicates that Secret’s target audience probably remains older than that of Yik Yak, especially with fewer tweens and teens using Facebook.

Let’s cross our fingers that Secret doesn’t pursue integration with Instagram.

YikYak is available for both iOS and Android, and Secret is currently available on iOS only. Both apps are free. 

Julie

Julie Marsh is a mom of three, a project manager by trade, and a triathlete for fun. She could also use a nap.

3 Comments

  • Reply March 14, 2014

    Jamie Mamikunian

    Thanks for the article! I recently downloaded Secret and started using it daily. I don’t know if its just my circle (and I don’t know who is in my circle), but for me the posts are more like daily affirmations or tech industry jabs. Recent posts are anything from: “I love listening to little kids playing outside. It makes even the darkest days bright” to “What is Ron Conway like?”. I don’t know if it’s just the mommy tech crowd I tend to run with or where I live, but this is as juicy as it gets for me. Bummer.

  • Reply March 15, 2014

    FritzOwl

    I can say right now that Yik Yak’s attempt to wall off elementary, middle, and high schools by GPS location will fail. There is one way that students WILL figure out, and I have tested this. Since I ru my own online radio station and write my own blog, I tested this by driving to Corte Madera, Ca, where I grewup and really put it to the test. I tested it by sitting in Corte Madera Town Park, which sites right next to Neil Cummins School, and YikYak still worked in Town Park

    I also tested this in Larkspur’s Piper Park, which sits next to Henry C Hall School and is across the street from Redwood High School, and I was able to access Yik Yak sitting in the parking lot at Piper Park.

    In short, students will figure out that they can either go accross the street, or to a nearby park, and log on to Yik Yak that way. So, Yik Yak’s attempt to geofence the service will ultimately fail.

    As the saying goes, “Where there is a will, there is a way”, and kids will figure this out sooner or later.

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