TYLER, T.X. - An app gaining popularity among American teens could allow predators to go undetected, according to experts.
More than 7 million people have downloaded Yellow, a free app promoted as a way for users to make friends.
The app works much like dating app Tinder: swipe right to like a person’s photo and left to pass.
Officially, Yellow allows kids as young as 13 to join. However, it lacks age verification – which means there’s very little to stop a predator from making a fake account to chat with teens.
“Since there's no age verification you really don't know who you're talking to,” said Rubyth Renteria, director of community education for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County. “You may think you're talking to someone who's 13 or someone who’s 15 in reality be 60 or 70.”
That raised concerns for parents like Courtney Burlison, a mom of three girls ages 9-13.
“I don't know their age, their sex, their history, background and they can be coming from all over the world into my home would be very scary for me,” said Burlison.
Renteria urged parents to talk with their kids about using apps and websites safely.
“If you just allow your child to download any type of app and never have a conversation with them, they never know what security measures to take to protect themselves,” she said.
Burlison said she continually monitors her daughters’ online activity.
“We want to be responsible about the amount of information our kids are receiving and the people we're letting in their lives,” she said.
Using Apple’s free Family Sharing feature, Courtney and her husband receive an alert when one of their daughters attempts to download an app.
Mom or Dad must approve the app using their fingerprint or password before it will install.
“I get an explanation from my child about what she thinks the app is and I go look it up and do my own research before deciding to approve it,” explained Burlison.
She also uses Mobicip, an internet filter. It allows her to track her daughters’ online activity and select the websites they can visit using categories and keywords.
“That enables me to go in and setup different restrictions for each child depending on where I feel like they are with technology,” Burlison said.
According to Renteria, that type of vigilance is one key in keeping your kids safe online.
“We’ve had a couple of stories of online solicitation of minors,” she said. “It can happen in the smallest town to the biggest town.”
And it can all start on websites and apps, like Yellow, which is why Burlison said it’s one app her daughters will not be downloading.