Did you ever stop for a moment and consider how media has consumed our lives and that of our children? From cable TV, Sirius XM Radio, Hulu, Netflix, Instagram, Pandora, YouTube and Alexa, we seem unable to function without a window to the “Hollywood curated” external world. There is seldom any part of our day when we are not bombarded by the noise of media telling us who we should be.
There is seldom any part of our day when we are not bombarded by the noise of media telling us who we should be. Yet, as Mick Jagger once said, when all is said and done, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”
With the depression rate of children over the past 10 years skyrocketing, these sentiments are lived each day by teens. Kids struggle daily with trying to become who society tells them they should be. The elephant in the room is the role that social media plays in this phenomenon.
To that end, I spend a lot of time researching apps that are being used – or will be used by teens.
Generally, I know about these apps before your child does. However, every once in a while I’ll hear about an app from a parent, a doctor, a guidance counselor – or in the case of today’s subject – from my sister Lynn.
Lynn shared an article on Facebook about the Yellow App. In the article, Yellow was described as ‘Tinder for Teens.” However, when I looked into its marketing – it was branded as a way to make new friends using their Snapchat and Instagram accounts.
Yellow is NOT the only app that markets itself as a SnapChat friend finder. Others include: Get Friends, Friend Finder, ChatPals, AddMe Pro and others.
However, as of this writing, Yellow has ranked in the top 100 downloaded lifestyle apps in the United States.
So, based on this info, I took a look.
Like so many apps it is free to download. Once downloaded you create a Yellow profile, users must enter their first name, gender and date of birth.
They then choose who they would like to connect with; boys, girls or both. For this demo, we selected girls.
Finally, users upload a profile picture or brief video and up to 5 other photos.
Like many apps, Yellow leverages location technology to find other users nearby. As a parent – this is of a concern since your child’s general location is defined. (We blurred this user’s face and name and covered her location to protect her privacy.)
Moreover, users are encouraged to provide their user names on Snapchat, Instagram and Musically – so anonymity does NOT really exist.
If you’re familiar with Tinder – you’ll be familiar with the design of Yellow.
Users swipe right if they see someone that they might wish to connect with – or left if they’re not interested.
Should both users swipe right they become part of each other’s contact list. This allows both users to message each other.
Given that there is no age verification – nor means of determining who is on the other end of the screen – this is certainly not an app for young teens… nor perhaps for older ones as well.
To test registration, I signed up using a false male name, picture, and age. The system never questioned my information – although I selected an age within the acceptable range.
I also was prompted to select the age of other users that I’d like to meet between the ages of 13 and 17.
Within 2 minutes there were hundreds, maybe thousands of pictures of teen girls – with nearly 50% of them showing their tongues while attempting to appear older than their reality. What really troubled me is that many listed their full name. Often you could see their city and schools that they attend.
Within 12 hours there were 7 girls between the ages of 13 and 17 wanting to chat with the imaginary person on the other side of the screen – several of them whose pictures would make a longshoreman blush. With my apologies to longshoremen everywhere.
So as not to shock potential users, the app store does suggest that there is periodic inappropriate content such as:
- Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity
- Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive Themes
- Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor
- Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References
Did I encounter any of this? The answer is YES to every last one.
To its credit, Yellow does provide reporting tools that allow a user to simply click on the flag icon in the top left corner of the profile if they wish to report a violation of their services by a user.
Much like Instagram, Yellow tells users that while you own your personal content you grant them worldwide, royalty free use of your content.
In other words, that picture your child posted of him smoking a bong, could be used on a poster for teen drug abuse in the south of Paris… or anywhere for that matter.
Did I really see a picture of kids using bongs? Yes I did.
Yellow also suggests that they use some of your personal information for statistical analysis – and for the purpose of the app’s security… which I’m sure is true.
However, like all apps… if it’s free… and Yellow is FREE… the app developer is making money from your personal information.
So, what do I think about this app for teens? I would not recommend this app unless you plan on monitoring your child’s use of Yellow.
That said, I recommend that you download this app and spend 30 minutes observing the behavior of its users. Then make your decision based on what you feel is acceptable.
As for me, after my time reviewing this app I was reminded of a quote I read from a teenager commenting on her life and social media.
“How did I go from this 5 year old, always happy, always laughing to this?”
To discover more about your child’s use of technology, and how you can help guide them through digital life, please consider ordering our book. All proceeds go to future research that supports our mission to educate families on their child’s digital tattoo.
NOTE: If you’d like us to come to your school or organization for our presentation on the impact of social media on teens, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org