It's been dubbed "Tinder for Teens," but this app provides predators with everything they need to contact a child.
Every parent needs to be aware of Yellow.
The Yellow App
Yellow is marketed as "the app to make new friends and chat with them! It's so fun!"
To make "new friends," users "swipe right to like and left to pass," much like the adult dating app Tinder.
"If it's a mutual like," according to the app's description, "you get a new chat friend."
What's not made explicitly clear in the app's description is that this "new chat friend" immediately becomes a Snapchat friend.
The danger with Snapchat, as child internet safety website Protect Young Eyes puts it, is that some kids "find it way too easy to send inappropriate photos."
More Than Mischievous Teens to Worry About
While Snapchat and Yellow are both marketed to younger audiences, perhaps the scariest thing about these apps is how easy it is for adult predators to impersonate young teens.
“It's very easy to put in a fake birthday and portray yourself as a 15-year-old boy that plays football at the high school," FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson told WXYZ Detroit.
A spokesperson for the UK-based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children described the danger of the app to The Sun:
"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. 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."
"We're now in a stage where adults are using [Yellow] to target students and to groom them. And grooming only leads to one conclusion. That's a sexual encounter with a child,” said Akron Public Schools general counsel Rhonda Porter when interviewed by WXYZ Detroit.
Supposed Community Guidelines
The app's website say it expects users not to "ask for nudes" and to "never harass, bully or spam other users." It goes on to discourage "threats of physical harm or other criminal activities" and states that users shouldn't "post content which is sexist, racist, homophobic or discriminatory in any other way."
From there, Yellow expects users to feature a picture of their face first and demands that they "never pretend to be someone else." They also insist that users not lie about their birthdays.
Unfortunately, as Kristen Smolen, a parent interviewed by WXYZ Detroit points out, there's no system for age verification built into the app.
Yellow's guidelines state, "If you are under 18, it is totally forbidden to make friends with users over 18."
That's a great sentiment, but Yellow needs to be much more transparent about how they're enforcing these guidelines. Furthermore, for parents to make good decisions about whether to allow their kids to use Yellow, its literature should clarify whether these guidelines are explicit rules or simply recommendations.
Perhaps the most serious-sounding guidelines reads, "Any sexual content involving minors will be reported directly to the police." Again, though, the app's administrators are not clear about who is responsible for that reporting, nor do they clarify who this reporting is meant to serve.
"You need to be parents."
Kids are prone to following social trends, and there are already more than 6 million users on Yellow.
"It's an important time to warn parents—you need to be parents," said Special Agent Anderson in her WXYZ interview.
"Be nosy. You need to know who [your] kids are talking to and what information they're putting online."
By spelling out clear expectations and rules and having age-appropriate conversations with children about why they need to be careful on all social media platforms, parents can help eager teens learn how to avoid potentially dangerous and compromising situations.