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 allow under-18s to join. Tinder was one of them until recently, with 7% of its users aged between 13 and 17 (outnumbering 35 to 44-year-olds1).
Tinder is officially 18+ now, but as most parents are well aware, age limits aren't foolproof. 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 free2 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 was 13 until June 2016, when they announced plans to make the service 18+. The previous age limit was heavily criticised, with some arguing it could put teens at risk and expose them to inappropriate contact. The app's VP of Communications has since called raising the age limit 'the right thing to do.'
Tinder still relies on users’ Facebook information for age verification, so under-18s who have an incorrect age listed on Facebook may still be able to sign up.
What can I do if my teen has joined?
If your child is using Tinder and you’re not happy about it, the best thing for you to do is to speak to them about it directly. Because Tinder is now 18+ their potential matches will be mostly adults, so it's especially important to explain your concerns and talk to them about staying safe.
It’s safest for under 18s to avoid online dating, but if you do discover that your teen uses Tinder, here are some things for you (and your child) to keep in mind:
- If your child is under 18, signing up will mean lying about their age. Most adults on Tinder are there to match with other adults and won't want to start a friendship or relationship based on dishonesty.
- Meeting new people online is risky, especially for young people. Anyone of any age should be very careful how much personal information they reveal online. Because Tinder links up with Facebook, anyone who uses it 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.
- 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 that are 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, even one specifically for teens), 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
Updated 9 June 2016
2. For the most part – they also offer a paid option, Tinder Plus, with added features.