What is a teenager to do when they want to broaden their online friendship base, increase their Snapchat followers and possibly engage in some harmless young love? To the shock of parents everywhere - there’s an app for that.
Rapidly increasing in popularity amongst teenagers is the smartphone app Yellow. Commonly referred to in the media as Tinder for teens, the app has been designed to replicate the dating app Tinder. Both utilise a swiping left/right motion to browse through online profiles of users in close proximity and of a particular age range determined by the browser. Mutual swiping of two users results in those users ‘matching’ and being able to chat. Tinder requires a Facebook account to create a profile. This is a verification tool used to confirm the user is a legitimate person, it also provides users with visibility on mutual Facebook friends which further affirms the legitimacy of another user. Basically, this means that a user can choose to only correspond with matches they have mutual friends with, as a way to use the app and arrange meetings safely. It also helps ensure no users are underage, because whilst a Facebook profile can be faked and the date of birth changed, any users who appear underage can be reported and blocked from the app.
Yellow app developers promote the purpose of the app is to ‘makes friends’. Connected (matched) users are able to chat and both user’s Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram profile names are provided to one and other to connect on those social media platforms. Because of this, users have adapted an alternative purpose of using the app to increase their Snapchat followers.
Why is it such a risk to children?
Unlike Tinder, Yellow does not require a Facebook profile to create an account, it only requires a phone number to verify the user. There is also no age limitation for users to create a profile, hence why it’s so popular among teenagers. This also means that online predators are easily able to create completely fake profiles posing as teenagers in order to make contact. When teenagers have the mindset that having a high number of Snapchat followers equates to popularity and their sense of self-worth, some will stop at nothing to boost and maintain that number by engaging in very inappropriate behaviour. Such examples including being coerced into sharing nude photos and arranging to meet in the real world. Family Zone Cyber Expert and Clinical Psychologist Jordan Foster, who works closely with teenagers who use the app, has found that a lot of teens use the app to meet people. Jordan has said that a common goal or aspiration for teens is to have a relationship, "Because finding a relationship in the schoolyard can often be unsuccessful, teens are turning to Yellow to broaden their social network with the aim to meet someone online and because of the lack of user verification, they could be meeting anyone, it's a very dangerous app".
The app has been poorly developed resulting in several software bugs and glitches which makes it difficult for users to actually chat via the app. This has also increased the frequency of users swapping their other social media details to chat on those platforms more effectively. Most parents already know the dangers of Snapchat, but when you add the ability for teenagers to increase their follower base tenfold, the risks are dramatically increased. No longer are their followers only friends from school or neighbouring schools, they’re now anyone and everyone. The most dangerous issue is that these unknown people are located nearby, the same city, possibly the same neighbourhood looking at all the photos and videos your child publishes on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. If your child has included their school on their Facebook profile, then these people will now know where your child will be each day.
The potential dangers posed by this app are quite scary. It can be easy as a parent to think that your child will exercise common sense when using this app, but the reality is that it's too easy for even sensible kids to place themselves at risk. The good news is that you're not in it alone - Family Zone and our team of Cyber Experts can help you sort out what apps are appropriate for your child, and provide you with the tools and resources to help you navigate this journey.
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