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Children and young people across the world use a range of online platforms to communicate and find connection with others. One app is redesigning itself entirely around this idea. Yubo (formerly known as Yellow) now describes itself as a “platform that celebrates the true essence of being young” and encourages “you to just be you.”
Our online safety experts have taken a closer look at Yubo to let you know everything you need to about this app designed for younger generations.
What is Yubo?
Yubo is a live-streaming platform designed to help users “meet new people” from all around the world. Users can connect with others based on interests, location, or gender. Yubo is available to download on Google Play Store with a rating of “Parental Guidance” and iOS App Store with a rating of 17+.
In 2022, Yubo had60 millionusers.
How does it work?
Upon registration, this app asks for standard personal information: date of birth, name, and gender. Users must then submit a photo showing their face clearly as well as their email address and phone number.
Once a user is set up, they are sorted into one of two primary communities. One is for users aged 13 to 17 and the other for users aged 18+. They are then able to send messages, video chat, and livestream. While Yubo makes users become friends on the platform before they can communicate, its features encourage users to “multiply” their friends to “100,000,000” by using tags and participating in livestreams as a “watcher or a streamer” even if they are uncomfortable. The platform is designed to promote the feeling of ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ (FOMO).
Livestreams (“lives”) can have up to 10 contributors involved with unlimited viewers. Users can join livestreams with their camera and/or sound switched off. Streamers and viewers can then add each other as friends.
Profile sharing feature allows users to introduce their friends to other users. They can also find friends through “swipes” (similar to popular dating app Tinder).
Games provide a way to engage with each other, like “To be Honest” (a truth-based game for livestreams) and “Would You Rather” (users pick between two options and can see who else chose the same option).
Tags help link interests to other users. This aims for friendships to be made based on shared hobbies and interests.
Yubucks are an in-platform currency that can be purchased for “powers” – three options (spotlights, boosts, and turbos) for boosting profile popularity and visibility.
Yubo has recently done quite a bit of work to improve their safety after multiple incidents between minors and adults were reported. There are no set parental controls on Yubo, only general safety settings. When used properly, these settings can be employed to make Yubo a safer app for children and young people to use. However, it’s important to note that safety settings are not fail safe, no matter how hard a platform tries to ensure they are.
Yubo has a partnership with Yoti Age Scan technology. This Artificial Intelligence estimates the age of a user and verifies their identity against the provided image. This detects whether a user has given the wrong age or if they have taken a photo from the internet.
All interactions are monitored by a mixture of AI and human moderators for inappropriate content. This helps to identify potential offenders and protect other users. The “Muted Words” feature also works on a device-by-device level to allow users to hide any word, abbreviation, or emoji they don’t want to see.
Pop-ups are utilised to inform users if they are about to send personal information as well as alerting users to inappropriate behaviour or content.
On a personal account, a user can block and report other users which restricts profile viewing and interaction. They can also hide their location (only showing their country instead of city), turn off their camera and microphone, limit “Swipes” by gender and location, and hide their profile from being swiped.
Yubo does utilise a flagging system, where problematic accounts are suspended until the dispute is resolved. Our testers attempted to sign up for a Yubo account as a 13-year-old. After inputting their information and showing their face, their account was created but “locked for security reasons” with specific pieces of ID required to unlock it.
What are the risks?
Our online safety experts have identified and assessed the following risks to children and young people on Yubo.
Sexual extortion – There have been multiple reports of young people being harassed to send sexualised or nude images and videos by other users, as well as adults trying to access the younger community to talk to teenagers. A teen who joined Yubo said that while they met a few friends, it was mostly people saying “send me nudes” or “where do you live wanna chat” which made them stop using the platform.
Inappropriate or illegal content – While Yubo scans all content on its platform in real-time, it does not catch everything. There is still a high potential for young people to be exposed to explicit profanity, racial slurs, or sexualised imagery. It’s important to ensure they know how to report inappropriate content.
Information sharing – Yubo relies on a user’s personal interests, location, and gender, encouraging friendships with other users who are “the same”. This creates a false sense of trust. If a young person shares their hometown or their school, this information can be exploited for malicious intentions (bullying, grooming, etc.). There is also an increased risk that someone can approach a young person on Yubo and encourage them to chat on another app (like Snapchat, WhatsApp, or TikTok).
In-app purchases – Yubucks can create the false expectation that money can buy popularity. It is not a one-off purchase. Users must repeatedly buy Yubucks to create more buzz around their profile. For a young person who wants to be an influencer, this could seem like an easy (and necessary) way for them to achieve that status.
Persuasive design – Yubo is specifically designed to appeal to the FOMO feeling many teenagers experience and keep them hooked. It employs incessant push notifications and mirror popular swiping methods that are meant to encourage extended use. This can increase feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression.
What can I do to protect the young person in my care?
Discuss the importance of protecting personal information on social media. They should never divulge any information about themselves to someone they don’t know in real life, especially their address or their school.
Encourage them to use the safety settings provided – turning off their camera/microphone, limit search specifications, hide their profile from other users, and turn on “Muted Words” with words you decide on together. Explain how this is important to ensure they use the app in the safest way.
Remind them that if they are uncomfortable or don’t want to do something, they do not have to do it. They might be feeling pressure to ‘look popular’ or ‘not be boring’ and could be feeling vulnerable. Discuss the idea of ‘FOMO’ (the fear of missing out) and how to achieve a healthy balance between online and offline.
Ensure they know who to turn to if they see something that upsets them online. Check out our Trusted Adult resource to learn more.
Review appropriate online spending habits. Suggest using allowance money or chore money to pay for purchases, and explain that all purchases have to be run by you first.
Outline why it’s important to not share any photos or videos online. Remind them that it is easy to lose control of an image or video and talk about what to do if this happens.