Smartphones provide us with new experiences, helping connect people and making the world seem smaller. We rely on social media to check in with family and friends and to keep up on the latest information. However, that openness can also lead to danger.
As parents, we try our best to keep up with what's hot to make sure our children are safe, but it's difficult with quickly changing technology and so many new phone apps.
One of the newer social media connecting apps is called "Yellow." Right away, the app's description should make parents worry. Many describe "Yellow" as "Tinder for Teens." Tinder is the dating app where you swipe left or right depending on whether you like a person's profile. "Yellow" allows users to make new friends by linking their Snapchat or Instagram accounts with the free app. Users make a profile where they enter their Snapchat username, then give their first name, gender, and birthdate. People are then prompted to choose to connect with boys, girls, or both. A feature which appeals to younger users allows a person to describe themselves with emojis.
Users can review another person's profile, then swipe right if they're interested or left if they're not. If both users swipe right, they're automatically connected. That allows them to chat on the app as well as connects their Snapchat and Instagram accounts. This is where it gets tricky. Although "Yellow" does not allow photo sharing and claims it doesn't connect adults with those under 18 (there is an adult version), the app does not verify a person's age when they sign up. That poses a risk for young users and potential opportunities for predators. "Yellow" might be about making new friends, but there is no way to know who is on the other side of a swipe. Plus, once you're connected on "Yellow," you're connected on Snapchat and Instagram.
The app is also based solely on someone's first impression of a profile and picture. The potential for cyberbullying is very high. Someone can take a screen shot of a person's "Yellow" profile and spread it around. And for teens who do not receive a lot of "likes," there is a good chance they could fall into a cycle of self-doubt and self-criticism. Don't forget the old adage from Mark Twain "a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children says "Yellow" could easily be used by sexual predators to groom innocent young people. The app does not have anything in place to prevent pedophiles from posing as teenagers.
If your child does have "Yellow," please make sure you check the profile so you see exactly what they are publicly posting. And always talk to your kids about the risks so they can be safe online.