Parents Should Be Concerned About Teen Use of Tinder

Teens Use Tinder
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For many teens, meeting new people online seems like an exciting opportunity. A teen who struggles to make friends or one who feels like they've been labeled a "geek" can seek comfort in getting to know people outside their social circle. 

Most online dating sites restrict underage users. Originally, Tinder did not, leading to a small percentage of users between the ages of 13 and 17. In 2016, however, following long-held concerns about the safety of underage users on the app, Tinder banned users under 18.

Nonetheless, it is possible for underage users to manipulate the sign-in process to lie about their age and create an account. And even if your child is 18, there are still issues with dating apps that you should know about in order to help protect your teen.

What Is Tinder?

Tinder is a dating app where users create a short description of themselves and then upload a profile picture. Within minutes, users have access to photos of other people in their area who are looking to meet.

Photos are shown one by one. Users swipe left when they aren’t interested in getting to know someone. They swipe right to indicate they’d like to get to know that person more. Users receive notifications when they receive a match—other users who swiped right when seeing their photo.

When two people express interest in one another, they’re then able to engage in a private chat. This gives users an opportunity to share personal contact information.

Why It’s Popular With Teens

Tinder has gained popularity among teens for several reasons. One main reason is that the app provides instant gratification. There aren’t any long profiles to fill out and no need to wait to be matched with potential romantic interests. Instead, teens can begin looking for potential matches within minutes.

Tinder also helps teens avoid direct rejection. Users don’t receive any type of alert notifying them when others have swiped left (indicating they aren’t interested). For many teens, that makes Tinder feel less anxiety-provoking than asking someone out on a date face-to-face.

The Dangers of Tinder

There are many potential dangers associated with teens using Tinder. In fact, Qustodio even named it the worst app ever for teens and tweens. Here are a few of the risks: 

  • Predators look for teens on Tinder. Teens are only supposed to be able to connect with other teens on Tinder. But, obviously, people can lie about their age. Tinder serves as a great place for predators to prey on underage teens.
  • Pictures often reveal a teen’s exact location. Tinder allows users to look for people within a certain mile radius, so users already have a good idea about where someone is located. Savvy strangers can often locate a teen’s exact location based on the profile photo.
  • Scammers use Tinder. Fake profile photos are often used to lure unsuspecting people into chatting. Then, scammers collect personal information or offer shady links to click on which can be used to swindle teens into giving out their information.
  • Tinder encourages in-person meetings. Tinder isn’t meant for creating platonic or online friendships. It’s used by people who want to meet in person. Many teens underestimate the risks of meeting strangers and they may be willing to meet in private locations.
  • Tinder promotes sex. Tinder has been named one of the best apps for hookups. People using Tinder are often looking for one-night stands. It’s not a place for young teens to casually make friends.
  • Tinder’s premise is superficial. Tinder encourages people to make a fast judgment about whether they want to get to know people based on a profile photo.

Tinder sends the message to teens that choosing a partner should be based on physical appearance.

Keep Your Teen Safe

Talk to your teen about social media and online safety. Discuss the potential dangers of online dating and meeting people via the internet.

Gain credibility by talking about the reasons why it may be fun to use an app like Tinder. Be willing to listen to your teen to discuss all the reasons why he thinks it’s a good idea. A willingness to listen will show your teen that you’re open to having a genuine conversation, rather than a one-sided lecture.

Know what your teen is doing online and establish clear smartphone rules. As new technology continues to emerge, stay informed on the latest things teens are doing online. Take a proactive approach to preventing safety problems and respond accordingly when you have concerns.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.