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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.