Go pick up your child’s phone. Is there an app icon that is a solid, yellow square? While that little yellow square may look harmless, the app is growing in popularity among teens and already causing concern.
Yellow is the new app that’s being called the ‘Tinder for teens,’ because it’s designed much like the popular Tinder dating app for adults. Like Tinder, Yellow has left-right swipe to browse profiles, photo sharing, and private chat capabilities.
A closer look at this app and we’re in agreement with authorities calling Yellow a potential grooming tool for online predators. Here’s what parents need to know:
- Although Yellow requires users to be 17 anyone can open an account and begin browsing (swiping) through user profiles instantly.
- Contradicting their app’s age requirement, Yellow gives you the option of posting your age, which is numbers between 13-17.
- Many of users posted first and last names and their locations —always a bad sign of an app’s level of attention to safety.
- The app immediately allows users to connect with friends on three accounts: Snapchat, Instagram, and Musical.ly, which is far too much immediate access.
- Yellow allows a user to report a suspicious account but does not have a blocking feature, which opens the door to malicious activity including cyber bullying.
- Yellow makes it tough to follow a basic family technology rule, which is never send a photo to a stranger. Your kids connect with real-life friends through other networks. So why connect with strangers? Yellow is photo-based and exists off discovering new people nearby. Those strangers could easily be adults posing as kids.
- Sexting could quickly become an issue with Yellow. In a very short time, we noticed many male teens posting shirtless photos and females posting sexy photos.
Dangerous apps abound, and kids seem to love them. Some apps are anonymous, some automatically delete posts after 24 hours, and others, allow live video feeds between users. That list includes: kik, Yik Yak, Ask.fm, Whisper, YouNow, ooVoo, Secret, Omegle, among others (see a few app icons, right).
Talking Points for Families
- Anytime an online connection turns into a face-to-face encounter; you are at risk — especially if you are a minor.
- Kids can be overconfident in their ability to discern the truth about other people’s stories and motives. Catfish, predators and cyber bullies don’t show their true colors immediately. Often, there’s grooming and lying. So, connecting with another teen in another city you don’t know isn’t wise.
- Using mobile apps with GPS can easily be tracked, which compromises a user’s location.
- Some users of Yellow and similar dating or “connection” use the app solely to “hook up” briefly. This culture could emotionally and physically damage a minor.
- Yellow, along with other dating apps lack authenticity, adequate privacy, and safety standards.
- Online communication can create a false sense of intimacy and closeness. Researchers call this the hyperpersonal effect of online communication versus face-to-face relationships. This effect is a risk to an emotionally immature tween or teen.
- Law enforcement has connected some apps used by minors (including Yellow) directly to predators.
- Remind kids: If you do get a suspicious, mean, or obscene message on any social network, to report the account and to let an adult know.
- If you haven’t already installed filtering software on both your child’s phone and PC, now might be a good time. Many programs offer site blocking as well as reports that tell you what social networks your child spends the most time on.
Most people want to meet new people and find that special connection, which someone else who “gets it.” Your child is no different, and his or her journey into relationships is just beginning. As parents, we can stay alert, coach from the sidelines without judging, and remind them of the risks they may ignore as hormones and excitement close in.
While it’s tempting to go on your child’s phone and delete every potentially dangerous app, there’s a higher goal, and that is to become an approachable parent. Rather than throw down the gauntlet, take the time to talk with your kids about their social lives, friendships, and romantic relationships. Try to support without judging; coach without condemning. You’ll find that once communication and trust are solid, setting boundaries on app use will be your child’s expectation and not the start of the next world war.