NSPCC slams ‘Tinder for teens’ app Yellow and warns it could be used by perverts to groom innocent kids
The app can be used by children as young as 13, but anyone can create an account by changing their birth date
Yellow is available for both the iPhone and Android devices and bills itself as a “free way to make new chat friends.”
Just like Tinder, Yellow lets its users swipe right and left to either like or pass on another user and, if there’s a match, they can begin chatting. What’s more, you can then add that person as a contact on Snapchat and send them photos or videos.
Tinder sets its minimum age at 18 and specifically sells itself as a dating app . However, Yellow has no checks in place that verifies the age of its users.
The company said that the app prevents underage users from discovering people over the age of 18, and vice versa. But this can be circumvented by simply creating an account with a date of birth making the user under 18.
Only a small warning on the App Store states: “You must be at least 17 years old to download this application.” Similarly, buried in the small print of the Google Play store is a PEGI 18 content rating warning.
“Any app that allows strangers to send photos to children or vice versa is troubling – particularly where the images being exchanged are of a sexual nature,” said a spokesperson for the NSPCC.
“Yellow’s settings that enable adults to view children, through a service blatantly aimed at flirting and relationships, also creates an opportunity for sexual predators to target young people. This needs to be urgently addressed.
“We want age verification measures in the Digital Economy Bill that will stop under-18s accessing porn websites to be extended to cover social networking platforms.
“This would mean adults would not be able to pose as children or vice versa, and any operator that failed to comply could face fines or be blocked from operating in the UK.
“We would urge parents to have a conversation with their children so that they know how to stay safe online.”
The comments were echoed by other security experts, who suggested ways for parents to help protect their kids.
“As a father of two teenagers myself, I understand the pressures parents face to protect their children from potential online dangers,” said Pete Turner, a consumer security expert at Avast, an antivirus company.
“It’s impossible (and not very cool) to follow your child on every new social channel or seek to limit their online interactions.
“While you can’t police their online lives, there are three simple steps you can take to help your children stay safe online.
“Firstly, use the available tools that can help protect them remotely – a good security product will block unsafe web links, dangerous email attachments and stop viruses and malware.
“Secondly, if you haven’t already, set your parental controls to prevent your children accessing inappropriate content online.
“Finally, and for me, most importantly, encourage open and honest discussions with your kids about the risks of not playing safe online. This will empower them to behave responsibly and ensure they know they can come to you if they have any questions or concerns.”
Yellow’s developers responded to the concerns by saying it would be updating its app.
“We have identified the problem of changing the date of birth in the app, and we are currently working on a solution for that problem,” they said.
“In the new app, which will be available in a few days, any user wanting to edit a new date of birth, will have to send proof of ID to our customer service so as to avoid this kind of situations.”
But the developers maintained they would not verify ages on sign-up.
“Yellow is a virtual social network and not a location-based dating app. Underage users cannot discover people over 18 and vice versa,” the company told The Times .
“In any case, users can only chat with text messages – it’s not possible to send pictures within Yellow. Users can report profiles that seem to have a fake identity, fake pictures, inappropriate content or who lie about their date of birth.”
Yellow is surging in popularity with users who already have a huge number of chat-based apps to choose from.
PARENT DOME review and commentary:
The media is very adept at creating news pieces which draw attention to dangers and threats of social media and the rapid deployment of questionable Applications. This article did a great job in identifying some of the risks associated with the new application Yellow.
What is consistently missing in media coverage is, How is a parent to protect their child from what happens online. The overwhelming assumption made by parents is that by reading this article, they will have another conversation with their children about online dangers.
Conversations are a fantastic method to reinforce family values in developing digital citizens and stewards. But the question should always remain, is that conversation going to keep my child safe? Well, that is the hope. Parents and caregivers are hoping that if they talk to their children about technology that a mind not developed with wisdom will make wise choices.
The assumption is that “my child is fine”, but the only evidence for that is rooted in the conversation. The team at Parent Dome, with the mission of keeping kids safe online, strongly encourages parents to Trust but Verify.
Parents often reject verification of a child’s online experience because the child has convinced the parents of the need for privacy. The question best directed to parents should be,
Why does the world get to see what my child does and have a permanent record, but we don’t?
That permanent digital tattoo not only has visibility for today, it will be accessible in the future by school admission boards, employers, strangers, friends, family, etc. The delete button does not remove those digital impressions.
Another huge aspect which media never reports on is the legal and contractual responsibility of parents. We want to help parents understand that ignorance of the law is not a defense in a court of law. It is so horrible when a child makes an impulsive decision and takes that inappropriate video or photo. But when that photo violates existing laws, travels across the internet, the law has consequences for both the child and the parent.
When kids are now taking 200-300 selfis a day, how many of those photos are reviewed to make sure your kid isn’t putting themselves in danger? Trusting that 1,500 photos per week traveling the internet has no future impact? Or, is a new strategy worth considering?