By: Briona Arradondo
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -A social media app marketed as a way to make friends is raising eyebrows and concerns. It's being dubbed "Tinder for teens" and an easy way for strangers to reach children.
The Yellow app has 7 million users so far. Anyone as young as 12 years old can join. Users swipe left to pass or right to match. It joins a growing list of apps that exploiters can target, and it recently made headlines in other countries.
"A lot of times, 12, 13, 14, 15-year-olds download these apps because they think they're cool or they think it's the latest and greatest thing. Not necessarily realizing that it can potentially put them in some serious danger," said Josh DeVine, a spokesperson with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
One of those dangers is human trafficking.
"There is going to be a new app that pops up every single day, another avenue for a would-be trafficker to contact a teen," DeVine said.
Channel 4 created a temporary fake account on Yellow to see how easy it was to join. With a name, age, gender and verified phone number, the app takes a user’s location and pulls nearby users. A person can swipe left to pass a profile or swipe right to match and talk. It links users up through their Snapchat account to chat, which can provide an anonymous way for people to potentially get explicit videos or photos. Yellow even states in the app store that there could be sexual content, nudity or suggestive themes.
"I think it's really hard to keep up," said Derri Smith, CEO of End Slavery Tennessee. "You have to be a parent. You have to be looking over shoulders. You have to be checking devices."
End Slavery Tennessee helps victims of human trafficking. Smith said preventing children from falling prey on social media starts at home.
"Build up your children's self-esteem, sense of worth, because exploiters are going after the girls especially, boys sometimes, who aren't feeling really good about themselves," Smith said.
There are signs you should watch out for if you think your child may be involved in trafficking, including secrecy, unexplained amounts of money, real friends showing disapproval of meeting the stranger and missing school.
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