By Rachel Rosen
My child uses Tinder – now what?
We often assume the online dating world is strictly adults only, but as it turns out this isn’t always the case. Because credit cards are normally age-restricted, paid dating services are fairly effective at keeping out underage users – but lots of dating sites and apps are free and don’t have such robust checks.
Some dating services, like Tinder, allow under-18s to join. So if you discover your child has a Tinder profile, what should you know – and what can you do?
First things first: what is Tinder?
It’s a free1 online dating app. Users sign up with Facebook and are matched based on location, mutual friends and shared interests. One of its most distinctive features is the way you show interest in other users – swiping right on their profile. It has a reputation as a ‘hook up’ app, but many users will tell you this is undeserved.
Tinder’s minimum age is 13, like many other online services. They rely on users’ Facebook information for age verification.
Do they really allow 13-year-olds?
Yes. If you’re old enough to use Facebook, you are also considered old enough to use Tinder. 7% of Tinder’s users are between 13 and 17 – they actually outnumber 35 to 44-year-olds.2
You don’t get access to all of Tinder until you turn 18. 13 to 17-year-olds can only see and be seen by other users in the same age range, as long as they (and Tinder’s older users) have their correct age listed on Facebook.
What can I do if my teen has joined?
You can’t have their profile removed by the app, because as long as they’re over 13 they’re allowed to be there. If your child is using Tinder and you’re not happy about it, you’ll need to speak directly to them about your concerns.
It’s safest for under 18s to avoid online dating but if your teen uses Tinder and you’ve decided to allow it, have ongoing conversations with them about how they're using the service. If your teen is using Tinder, here are some things for you (and your child) to keep in mind:
- Be honest. Some young people say they’re older than they are when they sign up for social media, to get around the 13+ age limit. If your child has an incorrect age listed on Facebook, their Tinder profile might be visible to adults. This leaves them open to approaches from adults.
- Most adults on Tinder are looking to match with other adults, but any service can be abused and some may have lied about their age to access younger users’ profiles. It’s important to be cautious and not believe everything you see.
- Tinder’s underage user window is 13 to 17, but the age of consent in the UK is 16.
- Meeting new people online can be risky, especially for young people. Your child should be extremely careful about giving out personal information online. Because Tinder links up with Facebook, they should check all their privacy settings on Facebook to make sure they’re not revealing too much. Click here to find out how to set these up. It’s best to avoid meetings in person, but if they do happen it should be in a public place and your child should tell you where they’ll be and for how long. You could also encourage them to allow you to go along with them and watch from a distance to check the person they are meeting is who they say they are. Show them the advice below from CEOP on meeting up with online friends.
- Some adults use the internet to build relationships with young people in order to abuse them online or meet them in real life. You can read more from CEOP about how online grooming works and how best to protect your child here.
There are other dating apps popular with young people at the moment, including MyLOL, Meet Me and Snog (yes, we know, they are TERRIBLE names). We will be looking at them in more depth soon.
CEOP's advice on meeting online friends in the offline world
If your child does meet someone online (on Tinder or any other site), it’s always risky to meet up with them face to face. If you think your child is considering meeting up with an online friend, you might want to remind them of the dangers and share these common sense rules for staying safer from CEOP:
- Always meet and stay in a busy public place.
- Do take a trusted, responsible adult with you, not a friend. If the person you’re meeting with isn’t being honest taking a friend will put you both at risk.
- Make sure a friend or family member knows who you are meeting, where you are going and when you’ll be back.
- If your instincts tell you something is wrong, it probably is. If the person you meet doesn’t look like the person you’ve been talking to leave as soon as possible.
- Don’t accept a lift from the person you’re meeting.
- Stay sober.
- Take your mobile phone, keep it switched on and topped up with credit.
- Your personal belongings can be stolen, don't leave them unattended.
You can find more information about online dating for young people from CEOP here. It's a good idea to share this information with your child if you think they're interested in online dating.
First publish 24 March 2016
1. For the most part – they also offer a paid option, Tinder Plus, with added features.