The Hoop App: Where Tinder for Teens Meets Snapchat

The Bark Team | February 18, 2020 | Internet Safety Tips Kids and Technology

The Hoop App logo

Would you let your 12-year-old download Tinder, swipe around for a bit, and then share their Snapchat information with a couple of random strangers on the platform? Probably not. But you might assume that a similar app just for kids their own age would be OK for them to use. Unfortunately, even apps that are built with kids in mind can have potential dangers, and the Hoop app has several that parents and guardians should consider.

You might not have heard of Hoop, but there’s a good chance your child has. With over 3 million downloads, the free app hit #2 on the App Store in February. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your child about whether they’ve heard of the app — or even already downloaded it. But whether they have an account or not, it’s important that parents and guardians know what risks can be found on the platform. In this post, we break down everything you need to know about Hoop.

What is the Hoop App?

Hoop allows kids as young as 12 to form connections with total strangers. While adults can also use the app, Hoop claims that users over 18 won’t be shown kids’ profiles (and vice versa). By swiping through profiles — which include the person’s age, gender, and photos — users can identify who they want to begin a conversation with. They can then request that person’s Snapchat handle with the tap of a button to continue the conversation there.

By design, Hoop encourages frequent use. While plenty of social media apps are hard to put down due to their nearly endless scrolls of content, Hoop compels you to log in and engage each day in order to continue chatting. Although on Tinder you can “swipe right” up to 100 times each day, on Hoop, you’re required to use in-app “diamonds” to request chats — and you’re only allowed to send 10 requests before needing to obtain more.

According to Protect Young Eyes, “Teens earn points for logging in daily, sharing their Snap name, getting Snapchat friends to join Hoop, and taking surveys. And, since you can’t connect with people to learn their Snap username without ‘paying’ with points, there’s a steady, addictive tug to keep performing certain in-app activities in order to earn more points." This “pay to play” system makes it easy for kids to feel invested in the platform, but it also makes it hard for them to disconnect without feeling like they’re losing out on some part of their social lives.

Is Hoop Safe for Kids?

Here’s the good news: Hoop doesn’t allow users to sort who they see by location — at least not yet. While some people include that information in their bios, not having an official location feature reduces the risk that a stranger can find out where they are. But there’s some bad news, too. Hoop has had a proximity filter to let people match with nearby users in the past, and according to responses they’ve left on App Store reviews, they plan to reintroduce it. There are data privacy concerns, too, due to the fact that children are encouraged to complete corporate surveys in order to earn more diamonds. These companies can then use your child’s responses to serve them targeted ads.

As you might expect from an app with such a prominent Snapchat tie-in, users have reported seeing explicit images. “I’ve seen a large amount of girls using the Hoop app to sell explicit pictures, many of these girls under the age of 18,” one person wrote in a review in the App Store. Even though the Hoop app claims to keep kids and adults separate, there’s no age verification required when joining the platform, so kids could simply select an older birth year while signing up (and adults could pretend to be children).

How Bark Can Help With Monitoring the Hoop App

Because the app is newly popular, we’re still working on monitoring the Hoop app. But Bark can send you an alert when your child downloads a new app. Plus, we monitor Snapchat direct messages on Android devices and cover plenty of other platforms where your kids spend time online. You can also take advantage of our screen time management feature to set healthy limits around how your child uses their devices.

About Bark

Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.