A Mount Sinai High School student’s arrest for allegedly threatening to shoot and bomb the school this week has prompted administrators to warn parents about the anonymous social media application he used.
Suffolk County police arrested a 15-year-old boy for sending a post on an app called Yik Yak in which he claimed the violence would occur Tuesday. After parents and students notified authorities, Sixth Squad detectives charged the teen with making a terrorist threat, a felony that carries a sentence of up to four years in prison.
“The anonymity of these posts allows individuals who may have malicious intent to write comments about others that may be hurtful, harassing and sometimes quite disturbing,” Gordon Brosdal, superintendent of the Mount Sinai School District, wrote to parents in a letter posted on the district’s website. “I urge you to partner with us in addressing this important issue.”
Among his suggestions was for parents to review the settings on their child’s phone to consider blocking apps not appropriate for minors such as Yik Yak, which is rated for ages 17 and up. He also warned of other “misused apps” such as Snapchat, Kik, Whisper and Tinder.
Yik Yak, which a pair of fraternity brothers launched nearly a year ago, allows users to anonymously post comments that can be read by anyone within a geographic area as small as a 1.5-mile radius. It quickly became a haven for cyberbullies. The company said on its website that it hopes to be used for good and not cruelty.
“Although the makers of Yik Yak have attempted to address the issue of the misuse and abuse of their product by middle and high school students through the implementation of ‘geofences,’ which restrict access in locations identified as secondary schools, including our secondary schools, this does not address the issue of misuse outside of these predefined boundaries,” Brosdal wrote.
The suspect, whose name was not released because of his age, was scheduled to face a judge Tuesday at Suffolk County Family Court in Central Islip.