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Police issue warning to parents about popular app that’s putting teens behind bars

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By Jill Glavan

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (September 23, 2014) -- Police have an important warning for young people and their parents after a new app leads to arrests across Indiana.

The app, called Yik Yak, is growing in popularity. It's used primarily on college campuses but is location based, so you can post on it and see the posts close to you. Other similar apps are also on the market, billed as virtual billboards.

Butler sophomore Paige Liston told FOX59 almost everyone on campus seems to have the app and is talking about.

"All of a sudden this year... it became a very prominent thing on campus. It just picked up popularity," Liston said.

The app works by simply finding your location and showing you posts near you. With no need to sign up, you can post a blurb about anything and vote "up" or "down" on other posts. Posts are anonymous.

It's that anonymous element that has provided problems, even threats. Last week police arrested a 19-year-old girl at Indiana State for posting a shooting threat. A similar incident was also reported at IU.

"People feel more comfortable engaging in criminal activity, saying things, doing things they wouldn’t otherwise do if their name was associated with it," said Indiana State Police Cyber Crime Commander Lt. Chuck Cohen.

Cohen said you should remind yourself and your kids that nothing online is truly anonymous. If you post something criminal, police will be able to get information and find who posted it.

Yik Yak has begun blocking its app when you're close to K-12 schools, since bullying has been a big concern. It will send a message that says the app is for "adults only."

Still, Cohen said that doesn't mean it's fool-proof.

"Any parent of a teenager will know that teenagers find a way to use things that are designed for adults," Cohen said.

At Butler, Liston wrote an op-ed for the student newspaper about the app's inappropriate posts and tendency to target students or groups in negative ways.

"It’s definitely offensive to certain people and sometimes it’s just ... vulgar things that nobody wants to be hearing," Liston said.

Cohen said that parents should talk to their kids, no matter what age, and remind them that social media is never anonymous and anything you post online could come back to you. In this case, it could even lead to criminal punishment.

"Police can find out who you are. In most instances we will find out who you are and we will arrest you," Cohen said.

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