Is MeetMe Safe For Teens?

MeetMeSpoiler alert: no, it isn’t.

We wrote this week about how the City of San Francisco has filed a lawsuit against MeetMe, the casual dating website and app, over privacy policies and terms of service that are both very difficult to understand and make it a site that is favored by sexual predators seeking to make contact with teens.

The whole point of MeetMe is to allow users to make contact with strangers in their area, presumably for the purpose of dating or hooking up.

The age limit for MeetMe users is 13, but younger users can easily sign up by lying about their age. The problems with MeetMe, from the perspective of a concerned parent, are that:

  • Most teens will not understand what they are agreeing to (privacy settings, permissions) at sign up, and
  • In order for the site to connect users with nearby people, the site discloses other users’ location

That sounds like a nightmare for parents, and in some cases it has been. According to the San Francisco MeetMe lawsuit:

“MeetMe has become a tool of choice for sexual predators to target underage victims, and the company’s irresponsible privacy policies and practices are to blame for it. MeetMe improperly collects personal information from young teens-including their photos and real-time locations.  It then distributes that information in ways that expose children to very serious safety risks.”

MeetMe issued a response to the lawsuit this week and without directly addressing the claims in the suit, offered the following:

“We care deeply about the safety of all of MeetMe’s users. We review hundreds of thousands of photos posted to our services every day, and we compare the information provided by our users to a sex-offender registry. We employ a 24-7 team that responds to reports from our users and work closely with law enforcement when appropriate to assist in their investigations.”

We have no doubt that MeetMe makes an attempt to protect users from known sexual predators, but we certainly don’t advise that parents rely on those efforts to keep teens safe.

To make it perfectly clear, we at ThirdParent do not think that 13 years old is an appropriate age limit for a network that encourages and enables users contacting strangers, and discloses users’ location. For safety’s sake, parents should prevent teens from using MeetMe without exception.

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.

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