Yubo is a chat and live streaming app, extremely popular among young people, with 4.7 million users in the UK alone.
It has been involved in controversy since it launched (originally under the name Yellow), being nicknamed “Tinder for teens” due to its swipe-to-match functionality which mimics the adult dating app.
Despite being age-rated 13+, Yubo has been criticised for the way some young users have been exposed to inappropriate content and harassment. This has led to some schools issuing warnings advising parents against allowing their children to use the app.
Here’s everything parents need to know.
What is Yubo?
Yubo is a social media platform, available on iOS and Android. It’s free to use, with a range of additional features – known as ‘Powers’ – available to purchase on a monthly subscription.
Users connect and chat one-to-one or in groups. Users can also start and join live-streaming video chats known as ‘lives’. These lives can feature up to 10 streamers (those who are broadcasting) and an unlimited number of viewers.
You enter a mobile phone number to sign up, which you then verify by entering a code sent to your phone.
Platform guidelines state that users must be aged 13 or over (Apple's App Store recommends 17+, and the Google Play Store categorises it as suitable for 'Teens'). Anyone under the age of 17 must confirm they have a parent's or guardian’s permission to create a profile – although there is no verification process.
Yubo does, however, remove accounts that it suspects may have a falsified age. To prevent this, a user can verify an account by providing a photo holding an ID by their face. They can also use Yoti, a digital ID app, and connect it to their Yubo account.
In 2017, Yubo introduced two separate communities in response to safety concerns: one for users aged 13 to 17, and one for those 18 and over. In theory, this means nobody over the age of 17 can interact with younger users – though that doesn’t mean they will be protected from harassment or abuse and, again, it would be feasible for younger or older users to lie about their age.
Users swipe right on someone’s profile picture to “like” new friends, or swipe left if they don’t want to connect with them – similar to Tinder. If the user receives a “like” in return, they become friends and can start messaging each other.
If you have location settings enabled, you can find and connect with other people nearby – again drawing comparison with Tinder. You can also add friends using their mobile number.
Why is it so popular?
The app has grown exponentially since it launched in 2015. It now boasts over 50 million users worldwide, 80% of whom are aged 16 to 21.
It set out to be a disruptor, promising users a more authentic and engaging social experience than competitors – with more focus on chat and less on advertising and newsfeed-based scrolling.
It centres on real-time social interaction, rather than accumulating likes or followers. It claims to have no influencers – although you can purchase Powers using its in-app currency, YuBucks, where you effectively pay to promote your individual live stream, making it more visible on the app’s feed.
Are there safety settings and functions?
There are some controls available to help your child manage who can see their profile and block and report inappropriate behaviour or content.
Location sharing is a key part of Yubo’s functionality, allowing you to discover new connections in your area. Your current country appears on your profile, allowing you to search for and filter new contacts based on where they are.
If you give Yubo access to your location while using the app, you can curate which parts of your location are visible for other users. For example, you can hide your current city – although not your country – by going to Profile -> Settings -> Safety and Privacy -> Location and turn ‘Hide my city’ on.
You can also set ‘Use my location’ to ‘off’, so that friends or suggested contacts won’t be able to find you by your location. Your country will still be displayed on your profile.
You can manage preferences in the Swipe section of the app, where you discover new connections. Go to Profile -> Settings -> Manage Swipe and set preferences for the age, gender and location of people the app suggests to you to Swipe on.
Here you can also hide your profile from the Swipe section of the app, meaning it is less visible. Note that if you set these preferences with or for your child, they can be easily changed later.
Yubo validates accounts based on your mobile phone number: you have to provide a number to create an account. While it does not publish user’s phone numbers, you can connect the app to your phone address book, to add existing contacts on Yubo. You can disable this via Settings -> Safety and Privacy, so that friends can’t find you using your mobile number or mobile contacts.
Disable camera and microphone
When starting, you can join lives without having your camera or microphone activated, allowing you to watch without sharing anything yourself – a feature Yubo introduced to support shyer personalities. When live, tap the gear icon in the bottom corner and choose ‘Disable camera’ or ‘Mute microphone’ as required. You can turn them on and off easily during a live.
Blocking and reporting
Like all popular social platforms, Yubo has Community Guidelines for users to adhere to – to make the app “as safe and welcoming as possible”. It encourages users to report any infringement of these guidelines - which include sharing sexual content or threatening or harassing other users.
You can also block users, so they are unable to find your profile or watch your lives.
To do this, visit the profile of the user you want to report and tap the shield icon in the top-right corner. Select ‘Report’ or ‘Block’ and your reason. Make sure your child is aware of these functions if using the app.
Once you block someone, any content you have shared is removed, so Yubo recommends you take screenshots to provide evidence of negative behaviour.
What do parents need to be aware of?
Sharing your live location is an integral part of Yubo's experience – but making where you are so public is risky. It could lead to pressure to meet with people via the app, who know you are nearby. If allowing the app to share your location, users should be aware of how their data is being shared – and how to change it to a level they feel safe with.
Live streaming is also integral to Yubo – and it’s important to be aware that 'lives' operate differently to message chats in the app.
While you can message users individually or create or join chat groups, any Yubo user can watch and comment on lives, not just users you are friends with. The user hosting the stream can then choose whether to add viewers as new friends. It is especially important that the user is aware that other viewers can also record the live stream they are watching.
While safety prompts appear on screen to remind the person of community guidelines when streaming, these are easy to ignore. Young people may accidentally give away sensitive information – such as going live while in their school uniform – or be left vulnerable to bullying or harassment, or pressured into sharing details or behaving in a way they are not comfortable with.
There have been reports into significant sexual and racial harassment and bullying on Yubo, leading to some schools issuing warnings to parents that the app is not appropriate for children.
Yubo says it has moderation teams and algorithms in place to monitor and remove inappropriate content, particularly nudity. If it detects nudity on a stream, the stream will be disabled for a short period. The user will receive an on-screen message to put their clothes back on before the stream can be resumed.
However, their approach is open to abuse. Its Community Guidelines state, “We’re counting on you to make Yubo the safest possible app”, but in reality users can intentionally behave abusively, trying to get kicked out of chats.
Users are only banned temporarily – often for only a few minutes – before being able to reactivate their account, and though its Community Guidelines state that permanent bans are possible it does not give further details on any threshold for this.
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This article was last updated on 17/11/22.