Yik Yak – What Parents Need to Know

XP1PspM3There is an app that is has been growing in popularity among teens that parents need to be aware of called Yik Yak. In this post I want to share a few things parents need to know about this app.

How Does this App Work
Yik Yak is very much like Twitter but with some unique differences. On Yik Yak everything is anonymous. That is the big catch with this app. Users post what is called a “Yak.” A “Yak” must be 200 characters or shorter. Once a user post a “Yak” it is posted on a live stream. The other big catch with this app is that is location based. So the live stream of “Yaks” is made up of only users within a 10 miles radius of where you are. Users have the ability to reply to “Yaks” as well as “upvote” (like) or “downvote” (dislike) them. The two big things to remember about this app is that everything is anonymous and is location based.

Some Negative Things to Be Aware Of
There are a few negative things about this app parents need to be aware of. First, sexually explicit content is common on this app. For an example, when I downloaded this app and opened it up, three out of the first six “Yaks” on my feed were sexually explicit statements. I know some people will argue that sexually explicit content can be found on any form of social media but apps like this (and others like Snapchat and Whisper) make it easier for teenagers to view and share this type of content. A second thing parents need to be aware of is the cyberbullying risk that comes with this app. Like Ask.fm, since users can post anything as an anonymous user there is a huge opportunity for users to cyberbully other users. This will often happen through users replying to other users “Yaks.” Because of this, many schools, both high school and college, have banned this app. Yik Yak developers do use a technology called geofencing, which allows certain areas like schools to be “fenced” off to avoid cyberbullying. However, this doesn’t always work and is not always used which leads to continued cyberbulling on this app. The last thing I want to make sure parents are aware of with this app is the illusion of location privacy. Even though this app, and many others like it, ensure location privacy there are always ways for people to find out where other users are. This may not be easy to do and the average user will not be able to do it but it can be done. For an example, two teenage girls where arrested when they made threats about a campus shooting on this app. The two girls were tracked down by police and arrested. One article reminds us that “every digital device has an IP address that allows for it to be tracked.”

What Parents Should Do
Once parents are informed about this app and are aware of how it works as well as some of the negatives things that come with it, what should they do next? First and foremost parents must not be afraid to have an open conversation with their teenager about this app. Explain to them how it works if their teenager doesn’t know already (impressive them if they don’t) and talk to them about some of the negative things that come with using this app. Once parents have done this they will need to decide if this is an app they are ok with their teenager using or not. My suggestion for parents is to not let their teenager use this app. There isn’t really any point to it and there is no good way for parents to track what their teenager may be viewing or doing on this app. However, a parent could see what their teenager has posted as a “Yak” or their replies to other “Yaks.”

I’d encourage parents to also check out iparent.tv’s post on this app. They share some good insight on this app that would be worth checking out.


Bullying and Student Ministry

Upset Teenage Girl With Friends Gossiping In BackgroundBullying is a form of child abuse and 4 out of 10 children will drop out of high school this year because they are being bullied at school or abused at home. When students going to school, one out of every four of them will be bullied. Also, one out of five students admit to being the bully themselves. Bullying has been and is still a major issue within teen culture. Not only is this an issue within the walls of a middle school or high school, but with the rise of new technology it’s an issue online as well.

As a student pastor I rub shoulders with students every week who are being bullied as well as being a bully themselves. I encounter students who hate going to school and will possibly think about taking their life if the bullying doesn’t stop. Not only this, but I see bullying creeping it’s way into our student ministry as well. I’m not alone in this, student pastors and youth workers every where encounter these same situations and students. So what are we to do? What can student ministries do to help bring a decline in bullying? Here are a few things I believe we as student pastors and youth workers can do.

Educate our students. Use this issue to educate your students about bullying. Show them the devastating reality of what bullying does to students. Doing this will help your students are are being bullied have a voice and feel comfortable knowing you are trying to stop this thing. Also, this is a way to show the bullies what they are actually doing. When appropriate, use films such as Bully to educate your students.

Show your students from the Bible bullying is a sin. Call bullying what it is-sin. There is no way around it, bullying is never a good thing and from God’s Word be called a sin. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Bullying always involves talking in a negative way towards someone. Even when the bullying is physically, it usually involves words. The Bible makes it clear our speech, our words, should be for building up and should offer grace to the hearer. Does bullying do that? The Bible expects us to treat others with respect and dignity as image bearers of God and students need to know bullying as no place in our life’s. Don’t be afraid to show students from the Bible why bullying is wrong.

Partner with parents. Many times parents are unaware of bullying that may be going on at school or online. If you catch it before the parents do, make sure and have a conversation with the parents. You may talk with the student or students, but realize our job is to equip and partner with the parents. Don’t leave them out of this. Also, share resources with parents to help them understand this issue. One resource you can share is Covenant Eye’s eBook called A Parents Guide to Cyberbullying.

Don’t allow bullying in your ministry. Your student ministry must be a safe place for students. Don’t allow bullying to gain an inch in your ministry. If you see it happening, stop it and don’t be afraid to set tough boundaries. Students should never feel unsafe at our ministry because of bullying. Also, students should realize bullying has no place whatsoever in our ministry.

These are just a few ways I believe student ministries can help when it comes to this major issue of bullying. What are some ways you and your ministry are fighting against bullying?

Student Pastor Review of the Film “Bully”

bullyBully is a documentary that was released in 2011 about bullying in U.S schools. Out of the film Bully came a whole movement called “The Bully Project.” On their website, they say their goal is to “stop bullying that is transforming kids’ lives and changing a culture of bullying into one of empathy and action.” Their website also has a ton of great resources to help students, parents, and teachers attack the bully issue in their school. My goal here is not to critique and share about the whole movement, but ti simply offer a review of the film Bully that started this whole movement. From the title of this post you will notice I’m am writing this review from a student pastor’s persecutive.

The film follows a few students from a few different public schools across the country. It documents much of their being bullied and how they, and their families, respond to it. It also focuses on the death of two students who committed suicide after being continuously bullied at school.

I know myself and this film are based on two different worldviews. As a Christian, I believe bullying is the result of our sin nature. The only way to stop bullying is not to create an awareness of it or punish the students who do it, but introduce them to Jesus who transform them from the inside out which will result in changed behavior over time (sanctification). However, this film doesn’t start with that worldview and that’s ok. I don’t expect them to start where I start or agree with how to prevent bullying because it’s not a faith-based or Christian film.

Even though this film is not a faith-based film, I still enjoyed watching it and learned much about the culture of bullying within our school systems. I experienced a whole roller coaster of emotions as I watched this film. My heart broke for the students I watched get bullied for no reason other than how they look or how they act. I was filled with frustration at how they school staff just handled bullying by making the students apologize. I felt for the parents who didn’t feel safe sending their children to school anymore because of bullying. Lastly, as a Christian, I was grieved to see the brokenness of our world and people in it. I think the film did what it was made to do-give the viewer a glimpse into the bullying culture and show the devastating effects it has on students and their families.

One of the reasons I watched this film was to see if I could use it in the future with the students, and families, in my ministry. After watching it and giving it much thought, I think I could, but with some noting some things that we disagree with or see differently as Christians who believe in the Gospel. However, this film can give students and their families a picture into the seriousness of bullying and start the conversation about what we can do about it within our own school system.

Overall, I thought this film was very well made and is a needed tool in attacking the issue of bullying in our schools. If you have a Netflix account you should take an hour of your time and watch it on there. If not, make sure and rent or buy a copy of this film for yourself or family. You can click here to see more details about this film or click here to watch the trailer.