‘I cried a lot:’ N.B. teen talks about being bullied on Yolo

CBC Kids News • Published 2019-05-17 07:30

Expert advice on how to deal with bullying on Yolo

A 16-year-old New Brunswicker is wishing she never started using an anonymous direct message app on Snapchat called Yolo after she was bullied to the point of tears.

“I cried a lot,” said Moncton teen Kelly-Ann Gallien of her experience with the popular new app.

Kelly-Ann has a medical condition that prevents her body from growing any hair.

She showed the CBC anonymous messages from classmates that compared her to the cartoon character Caillou and the cleaning product mascot Mr. Clean.

The company behind Snapchat, Snap Inc., said there are ways to block and report people on Yolo.

“We have zero tolerance for bullying or harassment,” said Snap spokesperson Russ Caditz-Peck.

Kelly-Ann Gallien looks at her phone with her mom at the kitchen table.

Kelly-Ann’s mother, Patricia Lafond St-Onge, left, says she called the RCMP after her daughter showed her the Yolo messages. (CBC)

How does Yolo work?

Yolo is a bit different from other anonymous apps, such as Ask.fm, because users can control who they send questions to, instead of posting them publicly.

Also, the anonymous answers are sent as direct messages, so they aren’t published for everyone to see.

Explaining the bullying

Despite these differences, Matthew Johnson said he isn’t surprised to hear that bullying and harassment is happening on Yolo.

Johnson is the director of education for MediaSmarts, which is a charity that focuses on giving kids the skills to better understand digital platforms.

He said research shows that anonymous apps give people the freedom to say things “they would never dream of saying in person.”

Kellie-Ann practises figure skating on an indoor rink.

Kelly-Ann, who is a figure skater, says she has now deleted Yolo from her phone and is focusing on her sport instead. (CBC)

Yolo was not created by Snap Inc., said Caditz-Peck. It was created by an outside company.

Still, users can use Snapchat’s blocking and reporting tools to flag and stop any bullying, he said.

Advice for kids?

1/ The smartest thing to do is to avoid anonymous apps altogether, Johnson said.

2/ The next best thing is to take a screenshot, block and report anybody who bullies you on Yolo, he said, and talk to somebody you trust about the incident.

Kids Help Phone is always an option. You can live chat, text or call any time.

3/ Finally, Johnson said, it’s important to stand up for other people who are being bullied online.

“Speak out and use that anonymity for good,” he said, by telling the victim that you’re on their side and telling the bully they’re out of line.

Moving on

As for Kelly-Ann, she’s decided to focus on figure skating instead of worrying about mean Yolo posts.

"It's not something that I can control," she said. "So, if you're not happy, look somewhere else."

With files from CBC New Brunswick, Mathieu Massé/Radio-Canada

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