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(Credit: Yacobchuck/iStockphoto)

The MeetMe app (iOS, Android), formerly myYearbook, has a checkered past. While marketed as an app to meet new friends, it's widely used for casual sex and finding dates.

According to Pumpic Mobile Monitoring, the site has more than 100 million users, with one million active every day.

"There is a minimum age limit of 13 on MeetMe, however since this is nearly impossible for the app to verify, it does not stop younger users from joining," TeenSafe said on its site.

Problems arise when underage teens have access to the platform. In 2014, San Francisco sued the app developer after three separate sex crimes were traced back to MeetMe conversations. The city alleged that the app gives teens' personal information and location to strangers without valid consent.

Several instances of older men preying on younger users this month have thrust the app back into a critical spotlight.

SEE: 'Bark' internet safety app uses AI to help parents protect kids from bullies, predators, and more

Parents and teen safety organizations worry about how MeetMe is structured. The app is designed to connect users based on location. Unless the privacy settings are customized by the user when logging in, the app automatically displays their photos and information as public.

The app's "Ask Me" feature works similarly to a regular private messenger. The messages sent aren't monitored or censored. The user can also send photos. Whether it's sexual harassment or cyberbullying, teens can run into trouble on MeetMe.

An attractive part of the app might be its Credits feature. Users earn digital currency by talking to other users or just logging in. The more currency you have unlocks special features and boosts your profile for more people to see.

Younger users might see this as something similar to social media influencers or a way to gain internet fame. Obsessing over logging in and being active on the app could result in smartphone addiction, poor performance in school, and putting them in the sights of dangerous people.

The app also has friendly games like solitaire, air hockey, and crosswords which could draw younger users in.

Apps like Bark (iOS, Android) or Google's Family Link (iOS, Android) can help parents monitor their children's app downloads, interactions, or even lock their smartphone if necessary.

Social media sites like Instagram, Google, and Facebook have promoted internet safety over the last few months. The safety lessons help parents understand social media sites and protections available, teach internet etiquette, and help families navigate the potential dangers on the web.

Parents' first course of action should be opening up a conversation about internet safety with their kids. Encouraging a healthy dialogue can sometimes eliminate the need for "snooping" or possibly intrusive monitoring apps.

Download.com reached out to MeetMe for comment regarding how the app verifies a user's age. We'll update when we hear back.

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(Credit: Screenshot by Download.com)

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Takeaways

  1. Teen internet safety advocates want parents to be aware of the MeetMe app's dangers after Several instances of older men preying on younger users this month were reported.
  2. Parents can install monitoring apps like Bark or Google Family Link, but it's also effective to encourage conversation between you and your child.

Also see

Shelby is an Associate Writer for CNET's Download.com. She served as Editor in Chief for the Louisville Cardinal newspaper at the University of Louisville. She interned as Creative Non-Fiction Editor for Miracle Monocle literary magazine. Her work appears in Glass Mountain Magazine, Bookends Review, Soundings East, and on Louisville.com. Her cat, Puck, is the best cat ever.