While chatting with my hairdresser a couple of weeks ago about social media apps, she mentioned that her college-aged niece has been using the popular dating app Tinder to “hook up with strangers.” When I raised my eyebrows, she went on to say, “Seriously, she is apparently using this app to meet people who want to have sex with her.” Don’t ask me why the niece was so forthcoming with her aunt about this, but of course, it made me shudder at thought of my own daughter (or her friends) using such an app when they go off to college, or heaven forbid, sooner.
I had heard of Tinder, and knew enough about it to know that it is something I will never allow my kids to use while living under my roof, but thought I should do some investigating and try to get an idea of just how popular this “hook up” app really is and how it works.
As I began my research, it didn’t take long to confirm what my hairdresser had said. Tinder is widely known as an “app that helps you meet people for sex.” Although the app is intended for adult users to meet new people in their local area, it was disturbing to find out that the app is growing in popularity among young teen users.
Here’s the description of the app from the iTunes Store:
Tinder is a fun way to connect with new and interesting people around you. Swipe right to like or left to pass. If someone likes you back, it’s a match. Chat with a match or snap a photo to share a Moment with all of your matches at once. It’s a new way to express yourself and share with friends.
The App Store rates Tinder as being for ages 17+ due to “Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content or Nudity; Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor; Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive themes
How Does Tinder Work?
Once you have downloaded the app, Tinder requires that you have a Facebook profile in order to create an account. Your Tinder profile will display the same profile information as your Facebook account. It will also display pictures that you have uploaded to your Facebook account.
When you set up your profile, you specify your preferences for finding matches (age, gender, location). Tinder matches you with other users based on these parameters. You must have GPS enabled on your device and specify a radius for your matches in your account settings.
Once your profile is set up, you can scroll through pictures of users matching your search parameters. If a picture strikes your fancy, you can swipe the photo to the right to ‘like’ it. If you swipe to the left, you pass on it. If another user ‘likes’ your photo in return, Tinder will send you a notification message that there is a match and you can make contact with that person.
You may disagree, but to me, even for consenting adults, this process has creepy written all over it. I just have to be thankful that I am not part of the modern-day dating scene and hope my children have the good sense to stay away from apps like this and choose to find their mates the old-fashioned way.
What Parents Should Know about Tinder
- Tinder is intended for users over the age of 17.
- Tinder seems to be full of vulgar, rude, sexually-charged content. In fact, some of the creepy users have created their own Facebook page dedicated to this sort of content. It’s called ‘Tinder Creeps’. Notice I did not provide a hyperlink to this page, as I don’t want to be responsible for sending you there. View at your own risk – it is content you would NEVER want your children exposed to – at any age.
- Given how Tinder works, it seems it could easily be a potential playground for stalkers and pedophiles. Similar “dating” apps have been linked to cases of child rape by grown men posing as teens while using them. For more information about this, see this article: Social App Skout Suspends Teen Community After Rape Allegations
- Tinder requires users to have a Facebook profile in order to use the app. These may lead some to believe that if users have a valid Facebook profile, they won’t be on there with creeps who cannot be identified easily. Keep in mind it takes only a few minutes to set up a false Facebook account – and anyone can do it.
- Tinder matches users based on their relative location, not their exact location. However, there is nothing stopping a naïve youngster from revealing their exact location when they start chatting with their new-found friend.
- Users are anonymous until they both like each other’s photos, at that time they can message each other.
- Consider carefully how you feel about an app that allows your child to be judged, and essentially accepted or rejected, based on their appearance. Rejection like this could be devastating to a vulnerable adolescent’s self-esteem. Through my research I learned that apps like Tinder are often used to “prank” other users by creating fake profiles and using them to say outrageous things to people that they would never say in person. Tinder seems to be yet another platform for America’s youth to cyberbully each other.
What Parents Should Do
Of course, start by looking at your child’s device and see if they are using the Tinder app. Follow this link to see what the Tinder icon looks like in the iTunes app store. If you find this app installed on your kid’s device, you may be tempted to take a look at what they’ve been up to on the app, and as a parent who is likely paying for that device, I think you are well within your rights to do so. If your child is under the age of 17, you should sit them down and talk to them about why the app is inappropriate for their use. Then be sure to delete the app.
Be on the Lookout for these Other “Hook Up” Apps
Now that you know apps like this exist, you may want to keep an eye out for the similar apps listed below. Unfortunately, new dating and “hook up” apps like Tinder are cropping up all the time, and it’s pretty difficult to keep up. Here are some of the more popular ones that you may want to be on the lookout for on your kids’ devices. I’ve included descriptions of the apps directly from the iTunes App store.
- OkCupid is the best and highest rated dating app on earth. We use math to calculate your best matches, making dating simple and fun… and it’s 100% free.
- Blendr: Chat, Flirt and Meet New People Find nearby dates with Blendr, the free, socially flirtatious chat-to-meet app. Blendr uses your mobile device’s location services to connect you with the fun singles closest to you who share your interests and want to chat it up! With more than 200 million users around the world, Blendr is the best way to break the ice with more people around you.
- MiuMeet is the awesome new app that lets you meet, chat and even flirt with new friends looking for some company just like you! With this app, you’ll be talking to new friends and local singles in no time. MiuMeet lets you start conversation with new people through its messaging platform so you can meet up live and in person with that special someone. Whether you’re looking to branch out into a new social group or interested in dating that special person, MiuMeet is perfect for you and anyone else in between.
- Grindr The world’s leading mobile social network app exclusively for gay, bi and curious men – is sexier and faster than ever. With over 7 million guys in 192 countries, Grindr finds guys close to you for chatting and meeting anywhere in the world. Find your perfect guy right now.
- Skout is the global network for meeting new people.
Instantly meet people near you or around the world. Discover new friends at a local bar or in Barcelona. Millions of people are connecting and meeting through Skout every day. Use exciting in-app features to increase your chances of friending or chatting!
- MeetMe helps you find new people nearby who share your interests and want to chat now! It’s fun, friendly, and free! Join 100+ MILLION PEOPLE chatting and making new friends. It’s for all ages, all nationalities, all backgrounds — EVERYONE!
Have your teens used Tinder or any other dating apps like it? If you have anything helpful to share about apps and websites like this, please leave a comment.