Kids and teens are the most curious creatures. If you give them a smartphone, it will only take them a few minutes to navigate each app and website.
In a survey of media use among children by Common Sense Media, 53% of children and 84% of teens in the United States own a smartphone. These statistics prove that children and teens have immersed themselves in the complex world of media that may sometimes require adult supervision.
As teens explore the limitless possibilities of the Internet, their desire for information and meeting people become apparent. Besides social media, young people have slowly infiltrated the world of dating apps.
Not all parents are open to the idea of using a dating app when the age requirement is 18 and above. But what if your teen has a dating profile? Before you push the panic button, here are a few roundups on what to do if your teen is using an online dating app:
Dating Apps: What's the Deal?
Dating apps and online matchmaking sites are a popular way of meeting people and finding a romantic partner online. While matchmaking sites are professional companies with expertise in finding people who look for long-term relationships, dating apps cater to young people who want to date and make friends.
Popular dating apps such as Tinder allow users aged 18 and above to register on the app. Unfortunately, dating apps have poor age limit guidelines, allowing minors to use fake birth dates to set up a dating profile.
Although dating apps are great for connecting people, even unwelcome users, such as bullies, stalkers, and pedophiles, can gain access by creating a fake profile. This may appear as a glaring red light for parents, as this can expose their children to potential forms of abuse.
It is natural for parents to feel concerned about their teens who have learned how to use a dating app. But before you take away their phones, it is important to engage them first in a discussion.
Listen, but Don't Panic
Having the “serious talk” with your teen can turn a simple conversation into a heated argument. As expected, teens don't like it when you tell them what to do.
According to a parenting and child development expert, Dr. Deborah Gilboa, you may start the conversation by showing interest, asking a few questions, and listening without a hint of judgment.
Here are a few ways to do this:
- Begin by asking your teen how they discovered the dating app. Ask them what app they prefer to use and why they chose it.
- Express interest by asking them how a dating app works.
- Learn more about the people they meet on dating apps. Ask them who they are and the topics they usually talk about. This way, you will know if your teen is talking to any suspicious stranger.
- Ask them if they will recommend dating apps to their younger siblings and friends. You may also ask for their personal insights and advice.
- If you are allowing your child to try online dating, ask them about their relationship values. Ask them what makes a person attractive and the characteristics they are looking for in a potential match. Your goal is to help your child establish their expectations in a relationship.
Once you're done asking the important questions, now is the time to share your insights with your teen. Cite the emotional aspects of pursuing friendships and romance online. Let them know about the inevitable risks of heartbreaks and rejections by joining dating apps and share lessons on how to handle those risks. Most of all, tell them to speak out if they no longer feel comfortable with a certain match.
Alternatives for Dating Apps Made for Teens
According to Gilboa, dating apps have become a safer place than we might think. Gone are those days when people had to attend parties, clubs, and bars to meet people. Dating apps now offer safety features by fact-checking on dating profiles.
If your teen is keen on joining a dating app, you can suggest these teen-friendly apps that offer a safe space for young teens and don't spell danger.
- Yubo – Also known as "Tinder for teens," it is a social video-live streaming app that allows young people to swipe right on their possible matches and communicate with other users.
- SKOUT – This is a dating application and website where you can connect with people around the world. It offers a separate dating service for teens between ages 13 to 17.
- Taffy – Often marketed as a dating app for teens, it is a great dating app that isn't all about physical looks.
- MyLoL – This is the number-one teen dating site in the U.S. It has an age limit requirement; they allow teens only between ages 13 and 19 to sign up.
The Internet has indeed ushered a social shift in connecting with friends and even meeting potential partners. In the end, there is nothing wrong with forming virtual connections, but make sure that you go on full parenting mode to keep your teen safe.