SpotaFriend, the new craze in online apps is sweeping through the country connecting children from the ages of 13-19.
In a set up very much like the dating app Tinder, users are introduced to other users of the app within their vicinity. They are then given the option of swiping to connect.
Although the apps makers claim ‘it is not a dating app’ the testimonies they use in the app store all relate to dating.
“I’m 13 and a boy, I use this app a lot, It’s like other dating apps but for teens.”
“Now teenagers have their own version of Tinder” – Fast Company
Despite the app being actively marketed to those aged 13-19 there is also an age rating on the app of 17+ for the among other reasons, Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity.
One Australian newspaper reporting on the app even goes as far to call the app an ‘online playground for paedophiles after a reporter set up a fake account as a 15-year-old girl, despite a verification process meant to prevent this.
Within hours, boys had made contact including sending messages of a sexual nature.
Speaking to The Herald, Dr Carr-Gregg, who regularly consults at schools, said 13 was far too young for kids to use dating apps as their brains were not yet fully developed.
“One of the unique characteristics of the 13-year-old brain is an inability to predict the consequences of their actions,” he said.
“The risk of them meeting someone in real life suddenly is escalated with an app like this.
“It’s downright dangerous and objectionable for teenagers.”
Dr Carr-Gregg said dating apps were creating a “lookist society”.
“It’s a really bad message to send to children that our attraction to people should be based solely on their appearance and whether they’ve got a nice smile,” he said.
Parents and schools needed to work together to teach kids about cyber safety. “Teaching kids how to deal with these types of situations is now officially as important as teaching them how to swim and teaching them how to cross the road,” he said.