Facts and caveats for educators

Uvalde’s shooter threatened to rape and abduct children he was in contact with on Yubo, a social media app dubbed “Tinder for teens.” He shared disturbing images– dead cats, guns – and texted at least one girl he met on the platform about his plan to shoot an elementary school.

Unlike some social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, Yubo is not a household name. But the platform and similar apps that allow teens to video chat with strangers are becoming increasingly popular.

Here’s what educators need to know about Yubo and similar social media platforms.

About the app

Characteristic: Yubo allows users to create a profile, share their location, and view images of people in their area and around the world. They can participate in live streams or browse profiles, swipe right on those they like and swipe left on those they dislike, just like adults do on the dating app Tinder. Users who “like” each other can communicate directly, via video streaming.

Caution: Yubo’s user base has grown from 40 million in 2020 to 60 million in 2022. Ninety-nine percent of those users are between the ages of 13 and 25, according to TechCrunch., which reports on technology and startups. This large user base – and the fact that Yubo has competitors – means that a growing number of children are being exposed to the platform and others like it. Additionally, anonymous viewers can comment on and even record live streams, the organization found.

Characteristic: Yubo promotes itself as a way for kids to make friends all over the world based on their interests.

Caution: Since the platform works like Tinder, kids often judge their potential friends primarily on their looks. The conversation can become sexualized and even graphic, according to a 2018 study of the platform by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that examines the impact of technology on young people. “It was easy to find substance use, profanity, racial slurs, and scantily clad people,” the nonprofit organization’s review said. Live streams showed teenagers “smoking marijuana, using racial slurs and talking about graphic sex.” Yubo did not respond to EdWeek’s inquiries regarding the content of its app.

Characteristic: Yubo is marketed to adolescents and young adults. Users must be at least 13 years old to engage on the platform.

Caution: This platform is not for children, says Common Sense Media. In fact, the nonprofit recommends that individuals be at least 17 years old before considering using the app. As Common Sense Media’s review revealed, content exhibiting risky and inappropriate behavior is easy to find on the app. Additionally, anonymous viewers can comment on and even record live streams, the organization found.

How can adults help children who encounter scary behavior online?

Make it clear that sexual harassment, violent threats, and cruel insults can be common on the Internet, but that doesn’t make such behavior acceptable. In fact, it should be reported to the app immediately, said Erin Wilkey Oh, content director for family and community engagement at Common Sense Media.

And teens should think about how the platform makes them feel. Teens should ask themselves, “Does this sound like a supportive community or does this sound toxic?” said Wilkey Oh.

Lance B. Holton