Parents Beware of Skout: Another Unsavoury App
Skout is a popular social networking website with an adult flavour. This one is all about hooking up and flirting. It combines social media with geolocation capability to enable people to meet up. In April of 2012, it claimed one million new users every month. And yes, there's an app for that.
Flirting sites and apps might be acceptable for consenting adults, but the trouble is Skout doesn't have any real way of verifying the age of users. Its only “restriction” is to ask a new user if they are over 18.
In fact, the company behind Skout “noticed” a lot of teens were lying about their age and interacting on the website. Maybe the abundance of inappropriate pictures of young girls on their site was their first clue.
The teen market is a hard one for businesses to turn away from. As journalist Dan Lyons points out in a full exposé of Skout, teens are the ideal customers. “They’re impulsive buyers. They influence the buying decisions their parents make on big-ticket items like cars and vacations. They’re careless about privacy, and share too much about themselves. And if you can hook them when they’re young you can build a strong sense of brand loyalty.”
Skout showed its true colours when instead of ramping up security to prevent underaged users, it attempted to corral them into a separate site just for the 13-17 year old market.
The creators of Skout offer just what that age group does not need: an online way to flirt and hook up. With features such as “Look At Me” and “Find Flirts” and “Who's Checked Me Out”, the site is rife with dangers for immature users. Kids can hook up with other kids…or with creepy people pretending to be kids.
Skout and the app were shut down to minors in June 2012 after three teens, two girls and a boy, were raped in separate incidents in the US. However, the site continues, and the “adult version” of the app offers nothing other than a question about age to screen young users.
Mary Kaye Hoal, CEO of YourSphere for Parents, a cybersafety website warns, “Skout perpetuates the 'meat market' mentality that is affecting children today. It’s the idea that you have to have risqué pictures of yourself on social networks in order to have friends.”
Parents should add this one to their list of dodgy apps and sites to avoid. The app with a Blue Bullseye icon should not be allowed on young people's devices.
Further information on Skout, the issues surrounding it, and the company's response to the rapes, can be found in the links above.