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Bay Area Police Worry About Possible Bullying, Threats Via Yik Yak App

WALNUT CREEK (KPIX 5) -- A new social media has become a phenomenon among kids and teens, thanks to its ability for users to remain anonymous. But law enforcement and parents worry the anonymity of the Yik Yak app is leading to cyberbullying and threats of violence.

Yik Yak, allows users to post anonymously, only within a mile-and-a-half radius. Some students KPIX 5 talked to at Las Lomas High in Walnut Creek use it precisely because their parents have never heard of it.

"I think that there's more out there that parents don't know about, especially the ones that are new, that kind of come in, briefly shine and leave again," said Lauren Brown of the Danville Police Department.

Brown said the anonymity leads to a cyberbullying free-for-all, becoming this generation's version of scrawled messages on bathroom stalls.

"People hide behind that screen of 'I can say anything,' because it's not going to come back to me," Brown said.

That mentality is why the dangers don't stop with cyberbullying. Some messages are criminal, such as ones threatening violence on school campuses. It happened at Novato High School earlier this month, and threats were posted at two Southern California high schools in the past week.

Yik Yak said it's blocking use of the app at 85 percent of high school campuses, including Las Lomas, creating a sort of virtual fence. KPIX 5 found the app works down the street, about a three-minute walk from campus.

"You could still do it at home," said Joseph Baldetti, a student at Las Lomas.

Joseph said the app is all the rage at school. The school's newspaper on Friday had a front page article on Yik Yak.

Meanwhile, Joseph's mom Marianne Baldetti tries to keep up. "With four kids, basically impossible," she said.

Yik Yak was initially built for college campuses, which is another reason why the app is blocked off at many high schools.

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