Parents, be wary of these 'Tinder for teens' apps, police warn

Posted at 5:32 AM, Dec 06, 2017

CINCINNATI -- Millions of people have downloaded the apps "Yellow" and "Spotafriend," both marketed as "Tinder for teens."

But Cincinnati police warn that these apps can be a hunting ground for pedophiles.

"There are people out there — adults — who are out there looking to exploit these children, to get pictures of them, to get information and to, perhaps, take it to the next level," Cincinnati Police Sgt. Eric Franz said.

The concept of Yellow and Spotafriend are similar to the Tinder dating app for adults: Swipe "right" to connect with a potential match, swipe "left" to dismiss. When two users match, they can communicate within the app or exchange phone numbers.

With Tinder, Bumble, Grindr and others, the goal is to make a romantic connection.Yellow and Spotafriend, however, are marketed as opportunities to make friends. 

That doesn't mean every user's intentions are friendly, Franz said.

"There are dating apps out there where a lot of people made lifelong friends, if not met their spouses," he said. "But is that appropriate for a 14 or 15-year-old child to be using? The answer is no."

Local mom of three Jennifer Buchholz said social media is a blessing and a curse. It allows her children to remain connected to friends -- but it also poses the risk of danger. She said Yellow and Spotafriend are banned in her house.

"Just because the person they're talking to says they're one person, it doesn't necessarily mean that that's true," Buchholz said.

Users have to be between ages 13 and 19 to use Spotafriend; for Yellow, users need to be 17.

Disclaimers for the app say users can be exposed to nudity, sexually explicit content, drugs and alcohol.

One review for Yellow says "so much bad stuff happens here. I reported pornography multiple times and nothing happened. It's ridiculous."

A story in the San Diego Union-Tribune described how a 21-year-old man posed as a teen using Snagafriend and began a sexual relationship with an underage girl.

Franz recommends parents keep their children away from apps like Yellow and Snagafriend.

"Make sure they don't allow access to populations that you (parents) can't control," Franz said.