Make friends with people around the world. Chat with someone new. Get in touch with people in your neighborhood. Without going beyond your age group!
Doesn’t this sound almost idyllic? Yubo, formerly known as Yellow, also known as Tinder for Teens, has been growing rapidly over the past few years, with over 15 million users worldwide today.
So what is this app, and what do you need to know about it before allowing your kids to use it?
An app restricted to teenagers aged between 13 and 17 years of age, your child can register with Yubo with a live cell phone. Unlike in Tinder, there is no third-party verification of the profile. In a charming quirk that millennials love, users can fill their profiles by way of emojis instead of words!
Users of the app can swipe right to say ‘yes’ and left for ‘no’, exactly as on Tinder. On Yubo, if both parties say ‘yes’, they are matched and can chat and can follow each other on Snapchat or Instagram.
Users can also host live video streams or chats, with any number of people watching the conversation, whether or not the audience are friends of the person hosting the stream.
Yubo works on the principle that using social media to meet people is the new norm. The stated motive behind the app is to help teenagers make new chat buddies online. If location is enabled and public on both ends, you can set your profile to meet friends within a certain area – either local or on a global scale.
The app formerly known as Yellow came in for criticism as it became a platform for considerable teenage sexting in Ireland. It was later rebranded to Yubo. The original app was launched shortly after Tinder prohibited under-age users.
As teenagers are not always known for applying their common sense in the digital world, it’s necessary to screen your teen’s social media use and time spent online, especially when using relatively unknown or risky apps.
Why Parents are Worried
Some cyber safety professionals argue that almost half of all teens are using dangerous social media. Yubo, argues Virginia Beach Police Detective Christina Curtis, definitely qualifies.
The livestream feature is, perhaps, the most worrying. Children are able to initiate live video streams of their day, in their bedroom or any other location. Any number of strangers can view the stream and can send questions or interact via live text chat. These are not restricted to friends, and indeed users are encouraged to add friends during the stream.
The problems with strangers having a view into your teenager’s life should be self-evident. In addition, questions from strangers on livestream may result in teenagers giving away too much information in the heat of the moment.
While there is a clear age parameter, stating that users of the app are restricted to teenagers, there seems to be little to stop a user from lying about their age. This can result in under-age children getting in touch with teenagers of the opposite gender.
In addition, though the developers argue that the app separates people above and below 18 years of age, there seems to be little beyond community policing to keep predators off the platform. As Yubo allows children to send and receive messages and share livestreams with strangers, this is naturally a dangerous position.
Impressionable teenagers who are insecure with their bodies can actually seek out adults or mature teens on the app to chat with them, or even to ‘rate’ them. There is a concern, as yet unclear how serious, that the app can be used for grooming.
The Safety Measures
You may be wondering at this point why any parent would ever allow their teenager to get on Yubo! It’s important to remember that most children will want to join Yubo for the same reason they want to join any other social network, from Facebook to Snapchat: curiosity, a desire to fit in, and FOMO. And while Yubo presents some more obvious dangers than other social networks, the app developers have reacted to popular outrage and parental concern by implementing some safety nets:
- Auto blocking of people with images that are obviously not of teenagers
- Blocking of users with fake profiles, by the team of human moderators
- Easy flagging of profile and content
- Option to keep location private
- Investigation and suspension of underage profiles (no indication of policy on overage profiles)
- Auto blocking of nude and semi-nude images
- Development of an algorithm to screen for nudity in livestreams, shutting down the feed and blocking the user for a time
- Choice to restrict interactions by gender
- Prevention of fake accounts by phone number verification and also IMEI registration
- Prompting with community guidelines every time a user enters a livestream
- Auto removing fake profiles and inappropriate content that breaks guidelines
- Monitoring titles of livestreams to screen for the explicit or inappropriate
- Banning of sexually explicit emojis in profile names
The first step is to remember to pay attention to how your kids are using social media. Pay attention to their actions with their smartphones. Notice if they are asking for privacy, or running to the bedroom or bathroom to use their smartphone.
Keep open lines of communication with your children. Discuss their usage of social media and determine if they are using the app or wanting to start using it. If they are, first consider whether or not your child is emotionally mature enough to be exposed to the content shared on the app. If you feel they are, talk to them about what they hope to gain from Yubo and the potential risks.
It’s important to advise them on the potential risks of sharing personal information with strangers. Remind your children that nothing is more important than their safety.
Visit the Yubo Community Guidelines with your children to understand what is allowed on the app and what isn’t. Also ensure that your children know they can report any distressing or concerning content at the Yubo Safety Centre. You can also go through this guide with your teenagers (it’s not available on the app) to help them stay safe. Please report any bad behavior and keep an eye out for inappropriate content.
The most efficient solution is, perhaps, to set parental controls on your child’s devices. You may want to restrict children below the age of 13 from downloading new apps onto their devices. Using parental controls, you can monitor the kind of apps your children are downloading and how much time they’re spending online. This helps you understand what kind of content your children are consuming.
Trust your children, and make sure they trust you!