The Uvalde shooter threatened to rape and kidnap kids he connected with on Yubo, a social media app nicknamed “Tinder for teens.” He shared disturbing images—dead cats, guns—and texted at least one girl he met on the platform about his plans to shoot up an elementary school.
Unlike some social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, Yubo isn’t 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 should know about Yubo and similar social networking platforms.
About the app
Feature: Yubo allows users to create a profile, share their location, and check out images of people in their area and around the world. They can jump in on livestreams, or peruse profiles, swiping right on those they like, and swiping left on those they don’t, just like adults do on the Tinder dating app. Users who “like” each other can communicate directly, on streaming video.
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. That large user base—and the fact that Yubo has competitors—means that an increasing number of kids are exposed to the platform and others like it. What’s more, anonymous viewers can comment on and even record live-streamers, the organization found.
Feature: Yubo bills 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 are often judging potential friends primarily on their appearances. Conversation can become sexualized and even graphic, according to a 2018 review 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’s review said. Livestreams showed teens “smoking marijuana, using racial slurs, and talking about graphic sex.” Yubo did not respond to EdWeek inquiries about the content on its app.
Feature: Yubo is marketed to teenagers and young adults. Users must be at least 13 years old to engage on the platform.
Caution: This platform is not for kids, Common Sense Media says. In fact, the nonprofit recommends individuals be at least 17 before they consider using the app. As Common Sense Media’s review found, content featuring risky behavior and inappropriate is easy to find on the app. What’s more, anonymous viewers can comment on and even record live-streamers, the organization found.
How can adults help kids who encounter scary behavior online?
Make it clear that sexual harassment, violent threats, and cruel insults may be common on the internet, but that doesn’t make such behavior acceptable. In fact, it should be immediately reported to the app, said Erin Wilkey Oh, the content director for family and community engagement at Common Sense Media.
And teens should consider how the platform makes them feel. Teens should ask themselves, “does it feel like a supportive community, or does it feel toxic?” Wilkey Oh said.