Teens on app ignore risks to gain followers

Sharing personal information with strangers to gain new followers is a risk teenagers are taking on an app with similar features to Tinder.

A study of teen use of Yubo (formerly Yellow) found 15-year-olds were particularly blasé about protecting their own privacy, for the chance of reward such as boosting follower numbers.

The study, by Dublin City University (DCU,) found teens more concerned with creating new online friendships than the risks associated with sharing personal information publicly.

Liam Challenor, doctoral researcher at the National Anti-Bullying Centre at DCU, said they had chosen to study Yubo after parents contacted the centre to raise concerns in relation to sexual content.

While use of sexually suggestive or sexualised images on profiles was very rare, use of half of the eight most frequently used emojis were categorised as having a sexual meaning. These included tongue emojis taken to represent oral sex, a water emoji taken to represent bodily fluids or a fire emoji to represent sexiness, he said.

Yubo has over 15m users who send in excess of 3m messages per day.

Like Tinder, Yubo users connect with new friends by swiping left on a user’s profile. It allows for the live streaming of video and chat, both one-on-one and to groups.

Another area of concern, Mr Challenor said, was that 7% of the 298 profiles studied had shared their Snapchat details publicly before ever matching on Yubo. This was because they had embedded their username or snapcode in their bio or on profile pictures, so anyone could see their details without ever swiping or matching.

A stranger can see personal details the user posts to their profile which in some cases included a Snapchat username and public Instagram profile,” Mr Challenor said.

The study also found that 80% of users had integrated Instagram profiles.

Mr Challenor said while a lot of teens were growing more aware of the need to protect their privacy, 15-year-olds were found to be giving away more information than any other age group and were the most prevalent users of Yubo, representing almost one third of the overall sample.

“They are the ones we are concerned about because they are at the stage of development where they should be more cognisant of the dangers. It appears to be the case that they are taking risks with their own privacy in favour of creating new online friendships,” Mr Challenor said.

The study, “An observation and analysis of profiles among adolescents on the Yellow (now Yubo) application” found the split between male and female users was 54% male to 46% female. 60% were between the ages of 13 and 16, 40% were 16 or 17.

Mr Challenor said it was “important that parents and teachers are aware of how the app works and what sort of activity is going on on it”.

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