OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - An Ocean Springs mom is sending a warning to South Mississippi parents. Katrina Johnson wants every parent to be aware of an app that she says is being used by many students to spread hate. Johnson discovered the posts last week, and she says what she read would make parents cringe.
"I was in utter shock, absolute utter shock. There was a lot of vulgarity there, explicit things there, specific student names there. They're being degraded," said Katrina Johnson.
Johnson couldn't believe what she was reading.
"Some are talking about their genitals. I mean it's just horrible, horrible. Parents will be appalled!" she said. "This was equivalent to the movie 'Mean Girls' where they had a 'hate book'. This was an electronic version of a 'hate book.'"
Johnson was referring to a phone app called Yik Yak. She overheard some high school students talking about it last week. Out of curiosity, she downloaded the app.
"I was in shock initially, then it was panic. It was like these kids that are being made fun of, what are they going through? And we know from the past that other bullying has led to teenage suicide, and that was a huge concern for me," said Johnson.
Johnson notified the teachers and the school district. The superintendent told us she also learned about the app last week from a student, and was disturbed by what students were writing on the app.
"Absolutely it's a form of bullying. Children were absolutely targeted. I was very discouraged by what I saw on the app," said Ocean Spring Superintendent Dr. Bonita Coleman-Potter.
Potter said the app was supposed to be an online bulletin board, but because the postings are anonymous, she said people have used it for other purposes. The district immediately contacted the developer of the app.
"They've put up, what they've done across this country at high schools and middle schools, it's called the Geo Fence. That's a barrier that protects children from getting on the app while they're at school," said Potter.
"Our Geo Fence is working for us, so that's excellent," said Johnson.
She said the district has done its part, now it's up to the parents to monitor how their children are using the app at home.
"Save one child from crying themselves to sleep, that's what it's all about," said Johnson.
Potter said the district will take disciplinary action against students who use the app for cyber-bullying. And Katrina Johnson is urging parents to contact their school districts to block the app.
WLOX News is reaching out to the creators of the Yik Yak app for more information and will bring you that in a story when we get it.