(Header image via Google Play.)
If you haven’t heard of Hoop yet, we can almost guarantee that if your teen has Snapchat, they’re already pretty familiar with it. It’s a feeder app for Snapchat, and the latest way to meet new people. And while it’s not necessarily marketed as a dating app, some journalists and tech companies are calling it “Tinder for teens.” Let’s dive into everything you need to know.
What is Hoop?
The app is primarily geared towards kids aged 12-18. Adults are also free to use the platform, but they’re not allowed to view profiles of those under the age of 18 (same goes for teens in viewing the profiles of those above the age of 18). The interface works almost exactly like Tinder: Users set up profiles that can include pictures, where they’re from, their age, a quick bio, and then swipe through other users’ profiles with the option to either accept or decline the person.
The screenshot below shows the “X” to decline someone, and the Snapchat logo to accept someone. If a user clicks on the Snapchat button, it sends a request to the other person to link up on Snapchat. The other person may then accept or decline that invite, depending on whether or not they’d like to connect. Once the two users have decided to connect, all other communication happens through Snapchat.
(Image via Appgrooves)
Users must earn and spend “diamonds” (the app’s point system) in order to actually request a user’s Snapchat info. So if you don’t have enough diamonds, you can’t connect with anyone. Diamonds can be earned through logging in daily, completing surveys, watching ads, inviting friends to join, etc.
(To hear a teen explain how to use the app, watch this YouTube video.)
Is it safe?
Like many other social media apps, Hoop has the ability to connect users with strangers from all across the world. While the app does not automatically share your location with others, many users include it in their bio. (This would be one caution we would definitely encourage you to bring up with your teens about internet safety in general.) But ultimately, Hoop only has one purpose: to share Snapchat profiles. There’s no messaging, calling, video chatting, or any communication feature on the app; it’s solely used for swiping through profiles.
Potential predator activity
Although the app tries to keep users above the age of 18 from connecting with those below 18, it’s as easy as it’s ever been to lie about your age. So not only can teens pretend to be older than they actually are, but adults can pretend to be younger than they actually are. Protect Young Eyes soberly warns us that, “A predator can set their search preferences to show profiles within any age group. For example, a 25- year-old could set their age as 14 and set their search preference so they are shown profiles of 14-year-old girls first. They can also set their preferences to search for profiles in a close proximity to their location.” Protect Young Eyes also ran a test to prove these capabilities: “When we set our age to 13, within minutes we had a 20-year-old requesting to add us on Snap.”
At least one reporter received a sexually explicit video from a random user they connected with, who offered additional photos and videos via text. While apps like Tinder are often used for casual sex IRL, since many of the connections Hoop users might make won’t live anywhere close, another more pressing concern might be teen sexting. (See our Parent’s Guide to Sexting below for more information.)
There are risks associated with any social media platform, especially those that connect users with total strangers. There’s no real way to be certain whether or not all the people your teen finds will be safe or not, so please have good conversations around the risks in sharing your location, pictures, age, and more with total strangers. Because even if we ban Hoop this time, other apps are bound to pop up again and again. Ultimately, the issues Hoop (and other apps like it) bring up are deep and important issues that simply deleting the app from your kid’s phone won’t solve.
How do I talk to my teen about this?
Before you seize your kid’s phone on a Hoop hunt, try to remain calm, understanding, and prayerful on the issue. This is not an easy time for teens. They’re starving for socialization, and Hoop may be just one way that they’re hoping to salvage their social lives. With that being said, they’re likely not fully aware of the dangers of creating public profiles for people across the world to view. So we suggest that you first educate yourself on everything Hoop has to offer, then have an open conversation with your teen about it. Here are some questions you might consider asking:
- Do you use Hoop?
- Do your friends use Hoop?
- Why did you decide to join the app?
- Have you connected with anyone through Hoop?
- What do you think are some potential dangers in connecting with total strangers?
- (If you decide your teen is responsible enough to have an app like this), How can you use the app responsibly?
- A Parent’s Guide to Social Media
- A Parent’s Guide to Sexting
- Social Media Conversation Kit
- A Parent’s Guide to Snapchat