Expert issues warning about teen friendship apps that could be ‘online playground’ for paedophiles

A child psychologist has issued a warning to parents over popular friendship apps targeted at teens.

Speaking to The Herald Son, expert Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said that apps such as Spotafriend, a Tinder-style app that connects 13 to 19-year-olds with people in their area, could be putting vulnerable young people in danger.

Referring to the programs as an ‘online playground’ for paedophiles, he explained: ‘All it would take is a smooth-talking paedophile to send some silky little messages to these kids and away we go.’

‘One of the unique characteristics of the 13-year-old brain is an inability to predict the consequences of their actions.’

‘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.’

The Spotafriend website clearly states that the app is designed for ‘meeting new friends’, and even stresses specifically that it’s not a dating app.

The app, which currently has over a million users, also has a verification process where users send a selfie to be approved, with the aim of keeping the network teen-friendly, but several reporters have claimed that they managed to pass the test despite being over the age limit.

And although the app is not intended for romantic interactions, the blog content on the site does reference them, with articles including ‘How to ‘find your chill’ when it comes to dating’, and ‘Biggest turn offs for girls’.

Dr Carr-Gregg also expressed concerns over the appearance-led focus of apps like Spotafriend.

‘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.

‘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.’

GoodtoKnow has reached out to Spotafriend for comment.