JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A hot new app is exposing children to strangers.
The app Yellow uses your child’s Snapchat account. Users can connect with people by swiping right - just like Tinder - to then swap messages and pictures.
The comparisons are so close, Yellow has been nicknamed “Tinder for kids.” When Action News Jax searched for Yellow in the app store, Tinder showed up as a suggestion.
Yellow’s developers said the app is designed for users to make friends, but many parents like Janae Greer don’t buy it.
“I would be very upset,” Greer said. “I would feel like my daughter has been violated in a way. I wouldn't be OK with that.”
To test the app, Action News Jax set up an account posing as a 13-year-old boy. We didn’t have to prove our age and in just seconds, our first suggested connection was with a 16-year-old girl.
Action News Jax Reporter Russell Colburn brought the app to Action News Jax Crime and Safety Expert Ken Jefferson.
“Can these app developers be held accountable ... when an app is used out of their intended use?” Russell asked.
“No, no,” Jefferson replied. “The app developer is just developing an app. They're just developing a product for sale for people to use however you want.”
Jefferson said dangerous people can use apps like this one to prey on young people.
“You're going to have your pedophiles, you're going to have your sex offenders, you're going to have all types of people who are on these apps, who are seeking prey, and this is just like putting fish in a bucket and putting the hook in it,” Jefferson said.
The app has also caught the attention of the FBI.
“Some of these guys with a little bit of cyber background can extract data from these pictures, and actually get the geographical location where the picture was taken,” said FBI agent John Orlando.
For Greer, monitoring her 15-year-old daughter Caylee's cell phone and researching the apps she downloads are the keys to keeping Caylee safe.
“We just have to keep up and constantly talk to her about these things,” Greer said. “And as parents we have to do our homework, what's out there, what they're downloading, so we try to do that.”
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office sent Action News Jax a statement regarding potentially dangerous apps:
“No app poses a danger in and of itself, but many do provide kids with an opportunity to make bad choices,” said JSO Public Information Officer Melissa Bujeda. “Parents need be involved and educate themselves on the apps their children have downloaded to their phones. It is a portal that requires oversight.”
“Smartphones allow for interaction and engagement with the entire world and requires parents to be proactive. Parents can’t expect to hand phones over to children and have them behave and make decisions like adults. Make sure they understand expectations for behavior online by setting rules and boundaries. Help them understand their ‘digital footprint.’ Their history of internet activity is permanent and could have ramifications now or well into the future.”
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