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Yubo – digital schoolyard or “Tinder for kids”?

3 minutes reading time
11-17 years
Social Media
Tool description
Copyright: Ute Grabowsky/photothek.net

Yubo is a so-called social livestreaming app that aims to connect young people and is strongly reminiscent of well-known dating apps in some functions. Yubo has been available in German since the beginning of 2021 and is becoming increasingly popular in this country. Due to a lack of youth protection measures, there are some risks for children and young people when using the new trendy app.

In a nutshell:

  • App (from France) for Android and iOS
  • is aimed at young people between the ages of 13 and 17 (minimum age: 13)
  • free with ads or paid premium account and expensive in-app purchases
  • Lack of data protection, various communication and contact risks, inappropriate content

What does Yubo offer?

Users can chat on Yubo, upload personal photos, share their location, publish information about themselves and communicate with up to 10 people via live video function. Meeting new people takes place with the help of the swipe function: Profiles of other users are suggested. Like on Tinder or Lovoo, for example, people swipe either left or right to express their liking for the person. If both people swipe to the right, a so-called match occurs and they can get in touch with each other via individual or group chats. To make it easier to get to know each other, Yubo also offers its members the opportunity to play games with each other. Communities also allow people to get in touch with each other and exchange ideas on specific topics, such as sports, music or yoga. Young people between the ages of 13 and 17 have their own room and thus cannot interact with adult members.

When you register on Yubo, you create your own profile. For this, the app requires at least a photo of the person, the location, gender and age. The app distinguishes between underage members and adults – however, the actual age of the users is not checked.

What fascinates children and young people about it?

Young people use the app primarily to have fun, make new acquaintances, and interact with their peers. Due to its dating character, the app is also used as such, as videos by popular YouTubers like Livvy Day show. More and more new features, such as Snapchat Lenses, make the app exciting and interesting for young users, who can also use it to express themselves creatively.

The basic concept behind Yubo, that users between the ages of 13 and 17 can use their own community independent of adults, certainly appeals to many young people, but it does carry some risks.

What can be problematic about Yubo?

Yubo was not developed specifically for teenagers, but is clearly aimed at the target group with its features and via advertising. The app poses a lot of contact and communication risks: The lack of age verification promotes the risk of cybergrooming and sexual harassment, e.g. by sending nude pictures without being asked. Unlike many dating apps, contact can be made even if interest is one-sided. Yubo does offer its members the option to report and block people, but the damage is often already done by then.

The swipe function also supports superficial judgments of others based on their appearance alone. This increases the risk of insults, hate speech or cyberbullying.

The handling of user data at Yubo should also be viewed critically. To find friends in your own town, the app advises you to share your location. This allows the provider to comprehensively collect sensitive data and pass it on to third parties. Yubo reserves the right to publish and use data for its own purposes.

In-app purchases can also be a problem, as many children and young people are easily tempted to purchase paid features in order to use better filters, for example.

What does the provider think?

Yubo does not offer any special functions for the protection of minors. To comply with the community guidelines, the provider relies primarily on technical measures. For example, software is designed to detect and report naked skin and smoke in images and video. In this way, the stated age is also to be matched with the person in the pictures. However, one hundred percent safety of these measures is not guaranteed. Members can have their identity verified via an external app called Yoti. Once they have done so, a yellow checkmark will appear next to their username. However, this option is not a requirement and is little used. In addition, Yubo claims to employ people to moderate chat histories. However, it is unclear to what extent this is actually happening.

What should parents pay attention to?

If your child has the desire to use the app, you as a parent understand. Try not to forbid your child to use the app, but discuss the risks and a possible way to deal with them beforehand. In this way, you may prevent clandestine use. It is important that your child feels understood and does not feel embarrassed about possible insecurities or problems. That way, it’s also more likely to turn to you when problems arise. Ask about your child’s contacts and take a closer look if necessary. Your child also has a right to privacy, so refrain from checking chat histories. It’s better if you agree on rules for using the app together. For example, one might be for your child to let you know when she wants to meet a person she met on Yubo.

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