Everything a Parent Needs to Know About SKOUT
Today’s teens are more and more comfortable turning to technology and social media apps to meet new people online and inadvertently put themselves in danger. Technology offers teens the opportunity to meet strangers with similar interests, activities, or sometimes simply based on location.
The Skout smartphone app is one location-based app that uses a phone’s GPS to help users connect to people nearby. The app itself has come under fire as a danger to teens, causing the creators to rethink their security measures and build a teen community. However, it is important to consider whether the new security measures work and what you should look out for if your child is on Skout:
What exactly is Skout?
Skout refers to itself as the world’s largest app for meeting new people. The Skout app accesses users’ approximate locations and puts them in contact with other people nearby, allowing them to chat with one another, sending photos and virtual gifts. While users are nearby one another, they can choose to look at each other’s profiles and recent activity before deciding whether or not to reach out.
There are a number of different features, including “Shake to Chat” in which users can shake their phone and instantly be connected with someone else who is shaking theirs as well. The “Shake to Chat” feature matches users randomly, based only on the act of shaking their phone. Once connected, they have less than a minute of anonymity before their user profile is revealed. There is even a “Skout Travel” feature that allows users to virtually travel to different cities or countries to meet others.
What will you find on Skout?
Although Skout’s goal for users is to make new connections and new friends, it is undoubtedly an app that teens and adults use to hook-up with other people. In fact, it is even included on a number of different “top hook-up apps” lists. Typically, users will log onto Skout to find attractive people nearby, and then initiate a conversation that can quickly turn inappropriate. Many users log-in to Skout to find people who are nearby, and then arrange a spot to meet up.
The Numbers Behind Skout
- Any user between the ages of 13-17 will automatically be placed in the teen section of the app, which bans private photo sharing and prevents communicating with people within 100 miles. However, verifying a user’s age is virtually impossible, so teens can easily gain access to the adult section.
- As of 2013, Skout reported that over 500 million connections were made between users on the app.
- At one time, Skout had an increase of over one million new users per month.
- Skout is eager to maintain their strong teen user base, as it is reported that about 20% of their revenue is generated by the 13 – 17 age group.
Dangers Facing Teens on Skout
In 2012, there were three separate incidents where underage teens connected with predators on Skout and then arranged a face-to-face meeting. First, a 13-year-old boy from Wisconsin planned to meet with someone who he thought was a 16-year-old, but who was actually a 21-year-old man. That same week, a similar scenario happened to a 15-year-old girl in Ohio who met a 37-year-old man posing as a teen. Another case involved a 12-year-old girl who was reported missing and later found at a man’s house who she met on Skout. All three of these cases ended with sexual assault or rape at the hands of men who were pretending to be teenagers on Skout to attract teens.
After all of these cases, the app attempted to tighten security controls on their teen channel by not allowing teens to communicate with users within 100 miles of them. However, even the Skout CEO Christian Wiklund admitted, “We cannot promise a safe environment.”
When communicating with strangers nearby, teens will always face the danger of connecting with a predator. Even if the teen does not agree to meet in person, the private messaging feature may lead to inappropriate content exchanged, such as sexually explicit photos or messages.
Monitor your teens’ smart phone usage to make sure they’re not active on social media apps, such as Skout, and talk to them about the different dangers these apps present. All children, no matter their age, should have limits on what they can and can’t do, and that includes their time spent on social media. If you don’t know where to start, reference this helpful guide for tips on appropriate smart phone use for different age groups.