The story of Nicole Madison Lovell, the 13-year-old Virginia girl who was murdered by people she met on social media, renewed many parents’ fears of raising kids in the technological age. We hope that our kids will be smart, we educate them about potential pitfalls, but keeping up with the various ways kids can get into emotionally or physically dangerous situations is a challenge.
To that end, guest poster Hilary Smith is here to share information about how a popular online dating app called Tinder works and to help parents understand what risks it poses for teens.
Do you remember your first crush?
Those first twinges of love are a powerful and defining force during adolescence. As our awareness of romantic feelings awakened, we were consumed with the need to find a girlfriend or boyfriend, which led to many of us finding our first love interests at school functions, religious events, and (of course we can’t forget) cruising the mall.
For our teens, the need to form meaningful relationships with peers outside of the family is still an important rite of passage. However, instead of scoping out the local food court, they no longer rely on our tried and true methods for meeting that special someone. As our communication methods evolve with technology, our kids are turning to social media sites and online dating apps, like Tinder, to meet.
Teens Plus Tinder: What Should Parents Know?
Tinder is popular for many reasons in the online coupling game, but one of the major attractions for this app is the provocative images and its reputation for easy hookups. This promotion of sexual relationships, and the occasional love match, is initiated with a simple left or right swipe of a finger. If both parties “like” what they see, then the users can exchange information and begin interacting online or in real life.
Online dating conjures up a whole host of scary scenarios for parents, but realizing our teens are seeking relationships on the adult-oriented Tinder app can be overwhelming. This app, while geared for the over 18 crowd, does allow children as young as 13 to create accounts. In fact, the site acknowledges that 7 percent of its registered users fall between 13 and 17 years of age.
Tinder attempts to only allow other users to find other users in the same age group, especially for teens. However, we need to consider that it is extremely common for kids to lie about their real age on social media sites. This habit, while probably an innocent method to access games or bypass filters, can actually backfire when their profiles are seen by much older, wiser, and experienced adults trying to meet our children in real life.
Understanding What’s At Stake
If that isn’t worrisome for parents, we need to consider 70 percent of our kids actively take measures to hide their online activity. By clearing browser activity, dimming screens, and hiding apps, they are covering their digital footprints. This need for secrecy can cause our children to become involved in dangerous situations that they might not be emotionally equipped to handle on their own.
All of this covert activity makes our jobs as a parent harder, but not impossible. Realizing that our teens are turning to online dating and teaching them Internet safety is vital. In addition, monitoring a child’s social media activity can empower safer navigation for the online dating realm.
For more information about teens and Tinder, read the following: