internet filters

Tinder for teens? Yellow app raises red flags

For all its flaws, Tinder is at least intended for adults. Now a new dating/meet-up app, Yellow, is targeting teens as young as thirteen years old.

 

Yellow’s tagline is “Make new friends” but the app’s reviews suggest many users have much more than friendship on the brain.

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The app format is exactly like Tinder– see a profile picture, name, age, and country, swipe right to connect, swipe left to ignore. If two people both swipe right on each others’ profiles, they are connected by Yellow and can chat privately.

 

The app claims to restrict users younger than thirteen years old and require parental consent for minors. The parental consent requirement is only a box to check– more easily ignored than not.

 

Setting up a Yellow account does require entering a birth date, but Yellow can’t tell a fake birthday from a real one. Some users list blatantly fake birthdays.

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This guy is definitely not one year old.

But it would be just as easy for adult to create an account with a picture of a teen and list themselves as a teenager. These lax security standards allow anyone access to Yellow.

 

Even a real profile pictures wouldn’t clarify the user’s age particularly well either. There’s not much difference visually between an eighteen year old and a twenty-five year old. Some users forgo the picture altogether and use a screenshot of their Snapchat profile, opening themselves up for anyone on Yellow to contact them, with or without matching first.

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Now anyone online can video chat with DavidG.

 

And, of course, users can easily upload a picture of someone else to complete a false profile. Who would be the wiser?

 

For a seventeen year old girl, Yellow suggests matching with individuals between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five years old. Tinder doesn’t allow users under the age of eighteen, so Yellow could appeal to teenagers, but what are all these adults doing on a teen app? Why aren’t the twenty-somethings chatting with adults on Tinder?

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Too old for a teenager.

 

Which is a rather wide age range, especially for a minor.

Yellow doesn’t even require users to list their real names. This may protect kids’ personal information, but it also allows anonymity. And online, anonymity seems to equal trouble.

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He could be a nice Harry Potter fan, but who knows?

In short, Yellow:

*Encourages underage kids to communicate privately with strangers

*Provides the perfect environment for sexting

*Pairs teens up with adults

*Encourages kids to add Yellow contacts to their other social media profiles

*Requires no parental consent

*Provides no verification that the user is who they say they are.

With red flag after red flag, Yellow is worth missing out on for your teens. Kids don’t need to make friends online– they can do that elsewhere. Parents– put this app on your family blacklist!

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Video Chatting is the New Sexting

A recent study on children’s health listed sexting as #6 on the list of biggest health concerns for children in the country. Parents have taken note and jumped to educate their tweens and teens about the dangers and foolishness of sending sexually charged pictures or posting them online.

 

However, many parents don’t realize that sexting is not just pictures anymore. As video chatting has become more accessible, more teens and even tweens are using this medium for age-inappropriate communication with horrific consequences. The Amanda Todd sextortion case began in a video chat room and ended with her suicide at age 15.

 

To naive kids, video chatting seems less risky because the call ends. However, screen shot capabilities and hidden recording devices make it easy to preserve the content of any video call indefinitely.

 

While sexy video calls between teens who know each other is bad enough, a shocking number of video chat platforms offer to matchmake calls with strangers. No vetting or identification is required to join these groups; most only require a first name and an email address. Platforms like these provide anyone with an internet connection access to your child.

 

Facebook Live has only worsened the problem exponentially. Launched quietly, Facebook Live is a video chat function available to Facebook users of any age. Teens have the option to make calls to any other user (even if that user isn’t on their friends list) or live stream for as many or few viewers as they wish. Facebook even provides teens with the option to restrict their live stream viewers by gender, age, location, and language. A sexy live stream that excludes parents, grandparents, and school teachers is all but encouraged through these options.

 

What can parents do? Set a rule for your family that video chatting must take place in a public space of your home, or at least with the door open. Then, add any and all video chatting platforms to your Clean Router’s Black List. Here are a few of the most popular ones with their URLs:

 

*Facebook Live (live.facebook.com)

*SnapChat (snapchat.com)

*Google Hangouts (hangouts.google.com)

*Tango (tango.me)

*ooVoo (oovoo.com)

*Face Flow (faceflow.com)

*Video.link2.me

*Fring (fring.com)

*Chatous– specifically marketed as a “make new friends” platform! (chatous.com)

*Camfrog– specifically marketed as a “make new friends” platform! (camfrog.com)

 

You can also use the iOS parental controls function to lock any app on an iPad or iPhone, including FaceTime, SnapChat, and the others listed above. To do this:

 

  1. Open Settings
  2. Click on Restrictions (it’s under the General section)
  3. Select Enable Restrictions
  4. Set a password
  5. Toggle off any apps you don’t want your kids to use without your permission. You may also want to toggle off the Installing Apps option to prevent your kids from downloading any of the apps listed above.

 

Stay safe online this summer! To learn more about protecting your family on the internet, click here!

 

twitter tips for teens

One Social Media App Makes Us Happier Than Others

Most of us have heard of the “Facebook effect”: that more time on social media is associated with higher levels of depression and more life dissatisfaction. However, a new study has found that the users’ emotional responses after using social media vary based on which social media platform they use.

 

University of Michigan researcher Joseph Bayer recruited 154 college students with smart phones and texted them at random six times a day to assess their emotional state and recent communications. SnapChat interactions were associated with more positive emotions than Facebook and other social media platforms and came second only to face to face interactions.

 

SnapChat may not be for everyone (read about some of the pros and cons of SnapChat here). However, this study contains some useful social media advice that can benefit anyone, no matter their preferred platform.

 

Engage one on one as much as possible

A distinctive feature of SnapChat is that interaction only happens between inviduals. There is no “lurking,” and no feeling left out. On other social media platforms, it’s easy to just scroll by without engaging. Eventually, users can feel on the outside looking in– a lonely sensation.

 

Create face time

SnapChat is very visual. Most users communicate through pictures and video calls; while a text messaging feature exists, it isn’t used as often. This pseudo face to face interaction combines the benefits of real life socialization with the convenience of modern technology. In your own digital interactions, send pictures and video call when possible.

 

Keep it real

One of the positive effects of SnapChat as noted by this study is reduced “self-presentational” concerns. While other social media platforms reward the picture-perfect profile, SnapChat emphasizes sharing quick, unpolished moments. If you are not a SnapChat user, try to focus more on sharing your life with loved ones on social media than looking perfect.

 

Share the mundane

Facebook especially has become a place for recording major life events and achievements: weddings, births, graduations, vacations, developmental milestones, etc. Because SnapChat messages disappear,  the app lends itself better to sharing mundane moments. Sharing day-to-day life in digital interaction can promote closeness in relationships and temper the “Facebook effect” of too many polished profiles.

 

Social media is a great tool for maintaing both short and long distance relationships with friends and family. However, as research indicates that unwise use of social media has negative effects, make sure that social media and technology is improving your quality of life.

 

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teens on facebook

3 things you didn’t know about Snapchat

Do you SnapChat? If so, you are one of 100 million people who love to send quick “Snapz” to friends or family. Even if you are not a part of this social media craze, you probably have heard plenty about the app as well. After all, SnapChat = sexting, right?

 

Not necessarily. Just like any other social media platform, SnapChat can be used responsibly or unwisely. SnapChat in and of itself is pretty benign: user take a picture or video, caption it, filter it, put a timer on it, and send it to another user. Once the recipient opens the message, the picture or video disappears from view after the timer ends.

 

In a day and age where kids seem to love to let it all hang out online, it could be a positive sign that so many are turning to a more private social media platform. However, that privacy makes it hard for parents to monitor their children’s SnapChat activity. Whether you believe SnapChat is a blast or have banned it from your family’s mobile devices, here are three things you might not have known about this new app.

 

1) The messages don’t necessarily disappear

To clarify, the messages sent and received are not saved anywhere in the SnapChat app, or automatically saved on either the sending or receiving device. However, that does not mean that all the messages are gone for good.

If the recipient is quick enough, he or she can take a screenshot and save the message to the mobile device. SnapChat will notify the sender if the recipient takes a screenshot. However, if the recipient uses a camera on a different device, no notification will occur. There are other third party apps that can save SnapChat messages as well.

 

2) If you are under thirteen years old, your account will automatically be a Snapkidz account.

Snapkidz, the child version of SnapChat, allows users to snap pictures and play with the images but not to send or receive messages. Anyone who creates an account and enters a birthday that indicates their age is under thirteen will automatically receive a Snapkidz account.

This is a great safety feature, but of course it relies on users’ honesty. It is simple to put in a false birthday when creating an account, or even to delete a Snapkidz account and reinstall the SnapChat app with a “new” birthday to get access to an “adult” account.

 

3) It can be another FaceTime or Skype

It’s less commonly known that SnapChat also has a video call feature. Tap the square in the bottom left hand corner, and you’ll be taken to your friends list. Swipe right on a friend’s name, and SnapChat will make a chat space for your conversation. You can send text, image, or video messages from here. But, if your friend is online and on SnapChat, a box in the bottom right hand corner will turn blue. If you press and hold the blue box, your friend will be able to see and hear you. If your friend also holds down the blue box, you will see him or her as well.

SnapChat’s video calling is a bit unwieldy at first compared to Skype or SnapChat (you have to keep your finger on the screen or swipe the lock symbol to maintain the video call), but it provides clear calls and a good connection once you get the hang of it. Just know that anyone on your friends list can call if you are on SnapChat.

 

Like almost any other social media platform, SnapChat can be fun in wise hands and incredibly dangerous in immature hands. If your teens are still getting the hang of internet safety or need their online activity monitored, this app is probably not suitable for your family. While most people nowadays understand that nothing online truly goes away, SnapChat’s disappearing messages create an illusion of internet privacy. It is refreshing to step away from the show-all, tell-all social media world, but just because something seems lost does not mean it cannot be found.

 

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