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YouNow: The Live-Casting App Kids Love and Parents Fear

The Short of It

Apparently, those of us parents just finding out about YouNow are late to the game. On this live-casting site and app, anyone can stream a live feed from wherever they are, and at the same time, anyone else can chat with them. It's becoming hugely popular, especially among teens, and some parents are concerned.

The Lowdown

On YouNow, about 4 million members are creating more than 100 million webcasts each month. It's simple to broadcast a "show" live from wherever you are, and you can quickly and easily gain a following.

The social media site is really taking off, but parents worry about safety concerns and racy exchanges between users. For example, what will kids see if they follow the #truthordare stream?

YouNow does have rules against nudity and sexual content, and users under 13 aren't allowed to join. The company has algorithms in place and moderators to help them find and ban rule-breakers, but that doesn't mean your teen won't see anything bad if they log on. A live feed can't be prescreened or rated, so there's no real way to know what your teen will view next. The other worry is that children will create a feed and open themselves up to predators.

The Upshot

When Yahoo asked Christine Elgersma, senior editor of apps and digital learning for Common Sense Media, how to prevent issues with YouNow, she suggested having an open dialogue: "You want to ask your kids if they or their friends have ever used it. And then you need to have a frank discussion about the risks. But knowing whether they're using it is half the battle."

If you allow your kids to use the site or app, tell them it can't be behind closed doors, and set time limits the same way you would set them for video games, web surfing or TV watching, Elgersma says.

Using YouNow is probably not a big deal as long as your child's use seems casual and they're not broadcasting themselves. Dan Tynan, who wrote the Yahoo article, says he did some YouNow snooping: "In numerous random visits over the course of a week, I didn't see anything objectionable, save for the occasional F-bomb. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen—I'm certain it does—but it's not nearly as widespread as you might expect."

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