Police, child advocates warn of "Tinder for Teens" app

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Child advocates and law enforcement have a warning out about new apps that could put your child in harm’s way.

The app Yellow is being called “Tinder for Teens,” because it’s similar to the location-based dating app for adults.
Once you’re connected, Yellow users can swap messages, even pictures, similar to Tinder. 

The LaGrange County Sheriff’s Department posted a warning about the app Thursday.

“The basics of how it works: the user gives their name, Snapchat name, birthday, sex, and what they are looking for,” read the post. “Even though it asks for a birth date, there is no verification process to confirm the age. Yellow is a red flag to the law enforcement community due to its ability to put predators in contact with our kids.”

Officials are also concerned about another app called Sarahah, which lets people send anonymous messages to users.

Law enforcement is concerned it could become another tool for cyber bullying or other activities that could hurt children.

“As the school year comes to a start, we want to make sure we, as a community, are working to ensure the safety of our kids in all aspects of their life,” read the post.

The LaGrange County Sheriff’s Department has not seen specific instances, but the agency wants to get information out about the growing trend.

Howard County Sheriff Steven Rogers told Call 6 Investigates they’re aware of apps similar to Yellow and Sarahah.

“My Deputies assigned to School Resource Officer duty are talking to students and educators all the time about these dangers,” said Rogers. “There are new ones all the time.”


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IU law professor Dr. Jennifer Drobac said parents need to get educated on these apps, and in turn, educate their children about the dangers.

"A lot of sexual predators use these apps to cultivate and attract young people as young as 12, 13 and even younger," said Drobac. “They know older teens know better than to meet up with strangers.”

Drobac is an expert on the sexual exploitation of children, and said perpetrators can use the apps to find sensitive information about your child.

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“Children can be researched, where they live, what their activities are from these apps, so it's important to be very proactive with the children, but also positive,” said Drobac. “Just say no doesn't work.  "

Drobac said you should talk to your children in a supportive, concerned way rather than confrontational.

"I trust you, my child, but I do not trust all the bad people in the world," said Drobac.

Indiana State Police Youth Educator Stephanie Nancarrow told Call 6 Investigates at a minimum, you should sporadically look at your child’s phone.

“Go into every single app and see what it is,” Nancarrow said earlier this year. “For example, Down is a secret app to dating where they're hooking up with nearby people. It's similar to Tinder and you have younger kids getting on these apps."

Many apps look like tools or games, but they’re actually decoys meant to

Because decoy apps come out every day with new names, Nancarrow recommends checking your billing and app download history.

“You can see what apps your child has downloaded previously,” Nancarrow said. “Some kids know you’re going to go through their phone, so they'll take it off their phone, delete it, you go through it and then they'll reload it. So if you're not looking at your purchase history, you could be missing some of the apps they're actually downloading."

Indiana State Police recommends to parents to research an app if you don’t know exactly what it is.

It’s also a good idea to have a list of your child's passwords and make rules about changing them.

You can also install a slew of apps to keep tabs on your child’s whereabouts and screen time, such as Mama Bear and Net Nanny.

RESOURCES:

Net Nanny for Mobile
Mama Bear for Apple
Mama Bear for Android
Teen Safe
MSpy
Spy Bubble
Phone Sheriff

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