By Annie Mullins
To say the last few months have been ‘uncertain’ is an understatement, particularly for young people at a critical time in their development where being with their friends feels and is especially important.
To most, Summer Break means spending time with friends and gearing up for the new school year, both of which have been challenged due to COVID-19. This has left some young people to feel lonely and anxious, and seek social interaction with their peers. As a result, many are using the internet to connect with close friends, and making connections with new ones.
With the increase in social media usage, there is also a growing trend of young users posting increasingly unusual ways to gain ‘clout’ or likes in this case – these include fabricating occasions where they are alleging or pretending that they are being cheated on, couples and friends dangerously pranking one another, even fabricating occasions where they appear to be stalked or at risk of being assaulted.
The troubling trend has become more prevalent as social media use is globally at an all time high in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Teenagers are especially likely to engage in this behavior on social media in order to attract attention on platforms where ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ and similar tools can promote ‘vanity metrics’.
It is clear now more than ever, that social media platforms have a clear responsibility to their users, especially younger users who may be influenced by the trends they participate and observe online. It is critical for social media platforms to incorporate creative and innovative ways of educating and protecting users from the risks of these viral stunts and pranks
One app in particular that is at the forefront of innovation to protect its young users is Yubo, the social discovery app for teens whose primary focus is creating genuine connections, and introducing unparalleled safety features for their young users. With over 35 million global users, Yubo has incorporated an array of innovative safety features that protect its young users from potentially behavior that places them at risk on the platform.
For example, AI technologies on Yubo identify users manifesting behaviour which indicates that they are at risk from self-harm or suicide, and moderators can then intervene and offer them the support they may need or contact the relevant authorities. Yubo will systematically notify local police to the location of a user to conduct an in-person ‘safety check’ based on the user’s location when a user announces an intention to engage in a risk behavior such as ‘harming themselves’.
Additionally, Yubo has firm Community Rules which the platform constantly works to ensure they are being met by its users – including no nudity or partial nudity. Any Yubo users in live-streams who are undressed are detected using real-time AI technology, and the user is quickly notified by a moderator that this is unacceptable. They’re given one minute to comply with the rules before the live-stream is terminated. This response is essential in preventing sexual exploitation, as on social media platforms teenagers are often pressurised into sharing explicit images, which are then used against them to engage in further abuse. Yubo’s interventions support teens to think twice about their actions, as part of their ongoing education about being responsible online.
Similarly, when Yubo users are about to share personal information in private chat messages which could compromise their safety – such as their email, telephone number or location – they receive a pop-up message encouraging them to ‘think hard’ before either deleting or sending the message – this behaviour ‘nudging’ has been responded to well by the platform’s young users. Verifying user identity is another key challenge for social media platforms in preventing toxic behaviour and abuse, so Yubo has partnered with Yoti to use their identity authentication tools to identify suspicious users who do not appear to be who they say they are.
In addition to social media platforms implementing ways to protect their young and impressionable users, it is also important to encourage parents to have discussions about the risks that are associated with certain internet trends and behavior. While the internet can be a great way for young people to build friendships, and do so safely, there are still elements to be cautious of. Encouraging open dialogue between a parent and child is one way to stay on top of what they are seeing and experiencing online, so they can turn to their parents when things go wrong without fear. In this unprecedented and truly unique time, it is imperative that parents and social media platforms are working together to form a community to protect its young people from content and behavior that may put them at risk online.