Although this app possesses a 4-star Google Play rating and over 100 million users, MeetMe is one of the most dangerous apps available to teens. This app is designed to closely imitate other popular social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram. Unfortunately, these similarities mask a far greater danger. Teens naturally gravitate toward social media apps, especially ones that hold the promise of new friendships and relationships. MeetMe paints a tempting picture to teens, but parents should remain extremely vigilant if you decide to allow your teens to use this app. In most cases, avoiding the app might be the best course of action! Here is what you need to know so that you can make the best decision for your family.
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How the App Works
MeetMe focuses on creating new relationships for your teen. While Facebook and similar apps prioritize reaching out to old and current friends, MeetMe works almost exclusively to connect your teen with strangers. While there’s nothing wrong per say with building new friendships, it isn’t always safe or ever recommended by us to reach out to strangers via the internet.
Immediately after creating an account, users set up their profile using an active Facebook account or email address. In a matter of seconds, various profiles pop up for other users in the nearby area. Users can glance through a long list of public information for those who live nearby. Users are encouraged to chat regularly and even meet fellow users in person.
As an extra feature, users can also earn “MeetMe Credits,” also nicknamed “Lunch Money,” to build their profile and gain more profile views. These credits allow their profiles to gain more attention. It also allows them to use various search filters to search for fellow users based on their relationship status, age, sex, location, and even their body type. These credits are earned through various app activities such as:
- Frequent activity (logging on daily)
- Purchasing credits
- Frequently viewing others’ profiles
- Regularly interacting with other users
- Connecting with “secret admirers” during games
As a parent, it’s easy to see what makes this app so dangerous for teenagers. Despite being advertised as an easy way to make “new friends,” MeetMe is regarded as a dating app. Users are encouraged and even rewarded to view profiles of the opposite sex. The Huffington Post included this app in a list of the top 6 dating apps teens secretly use. Dating apps in and of themselves are dangerous temptations for teens; MeetMe goes to a whole new level of risk with these red flags:
- Age Requirements
Although the app states that users must be at least 13, there is practically no age-verification process to keep this in check. With approximately 194.2 million views in the United States alone, it’s safe to assume to a huge range of age groups regularly visit this app. While our teens may think they are chatting with a fellow teen, they may really be connecting with someone twice their age.
- Negative Reinforcements
With MeetMe Credits, users are encouraged to perform various tasks on the app. This gives the app an “arcade-like” feel; teens may forget that their actions on the app have very real, real-world consequences.They can become so caught up winning the app’s games that they forget they are playing with real strangers.
- Lack of Privacy
MeetMe possesses an “open-door” policy in regards to its user profiles. There are no privacy settings; every detail your teen adds to their personal profile will be present for anyone to see. The app encourages users to be very open and share personal details to “help” them build connections with fellow users. It’s very common for sexually explicit and even pornographic material to find its way into user news feeds. Everything–including your teen’s information–is out in the open and easy for everyone to see.
Consequences of Stranger Danger
In 2014 San Francisco’s City Attorney sued MeetMe after 3 specific sex crimes were directly traced back to the MeetMe users. In August of that year, a 29-year-old man was charged with multiple counts of sexual impropriety with a minor. MeetMe was one of the social media platforms he used to send explicit pictures and messages to his underage victims. The same year, a 21-year-old man was arrested after pretending to be a 16-year- old boy to trick two underage girls into performing sexual acts with him.
When interviewed over the lawsuit against MeetMe, City Attorney Dennis Herrera stated:
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a company that has been as irresponsible in terms of not advertising the proper privacy protections and actually violating guidelines that the (California) attorney general has put in place.”
He also bluntly explained, “The purpose of MeetMe is to allow strangers to interact and meet online.”
Although MeetMe is still operating as a thriving social media platform, the negative fall-out of this dangerous app is still present. Unknowingly, many underage teenagers are still connecting with dangerous predators, completely unaware of the life-changing impact this app holds.
Keeping your Teens Safe
Your teenager may simply be looking for new friends; they may not be concerned or even aware of the hidden dangers. Talk with them and help them see the risk of reaching out to strangers or sharing personal information. If they still wish to seek new friendships, point them in safer directions such as local after-school clubs, teen groups at your local church or synagogue, sports teams, and other well-regulated sources.
If you’re concerned your teen is already using MeetMe, carefully discuss with them their activity and explain the danger. Try to find out what information they’ve shared and whether or not any strangers have attempted to make contact. You may need to do some damage control and possibly contact authorities if your child is being targeted by potential predators through the app. If you have concerns, always consult trusted authorities before deleting the app. It may contain information they need.
Whether or not your teen uses this app, regular safety checks on their phones and internet devices are key to avoiding dangerous apps such as MeetMe. Using a trustworthy parental control is also a great way to block apps that you consider dangerous or inappropriate. Knowledge is key. See what other apps you can block in an instant when you use Netsanity.
Also published on Medium.