datingappsteensDating….we’re entering a whole new phase. As parents we want to pretend that our kids aren’t talking to strangers online. Surely they’ve listen to us as we’ve talked about the dangers of sharing personal information over the internet. But our teens have grown up connecting online. It’s normal to them. They don’t group their friends in these nice little groups like “my friends in real life” and “my online friends.” They are all just friends; and their devices allow them to connect in ways many of us weren’t able to when we were their age. This means that teens will use, or have friends who use, dating apps. The topic of dating apps and teens isn’t something for “those other parents.” It’s a topic for every parent.

All parents need to be aware of how our teens are connecting. We need to know what apps are available. And, most of all, we need to be talking, talking, and talking to our teens.

So let’s talk dating (or as some say “hook up”) apps . . .

Tindtinderer

While not exactly a social network, Tinder is a mobile dating app that pulls your photo and basic info from your Facebook account. It’s not technically a social network. However, it’s become a popular known “hookup” app among teens and young adults. Rather than pretend it doesn’t exist, I feel that parents should know about it. It’s easy to set up an account. Once you have an account, users can swipe “yes” or “no” to potential matches who are nearby – yes, it uses your location. If the feeling is mutual, people can chat within the app.

Tinder is available for both Android and iOS devices.

What Teens Say

Our teens have grown up in a digital world. They use computers and phones for everything, including communication. Because of this, it isn’t a big stretch for them to want to meet new people in this way.

What Parents Need to Know

Tinder is a photo and messaging dating app, used for browsing photos of potential matches within a certain mile radius of the user’s location. Swipe right to “like” a photo or left to “pass.” If a person whose photo you “liked” swipes “like” on your photo, the app allows you to message each other. Along with seeking and messaging matches, users can post “moments,” which are images and messages that exist for 24 hours and then disappear. Tinder’s terms of use state the app is for those 13 and up. However, the app does have a reputation as a hookup site. Tinder’s use of location, combined with the openness of privacy, makes this a very risky app for teens.

Teens as young as 13 can legally get a Tinder account. In fact, 7% of Tinder’s users are in the 13-17 year old range. And, 51% are ages 18-24. If your teens aren’t using Tinder now, there’s a 50% chance they may as a young adult.

The app is rated in the Apple store for “Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content or Nudity; Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor; Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes.” Users are anonymous until a match is made. Once the match is made, the 2 parties can message each other. Not every user on Tinder is rude or vulgar. But users will have to wade through tons of offensive and sexually explicit profiles along the way. Another concern is that the app works to facilitate meeting by revealing the user’s location.

skoutSkout

Skout gives users the ability to connect with people no matter where they are. Skout believes, “The world has no limits, so why should you?” This app goes beyond other meeting apps by offering Shake to Chat, a feature where you simply shake your device to start chatting with someone new. Shout Travel lets you travel virtually anywhere in the world; while Feature Me puts you on center stage for the entire Skout community.

Skout is available for both Android and iOS devices.

What Teens Say

Teens are drawn to Skout because it’s been around for a while. Also appealing is the fact that the app offers not just the ability to chat with those in close proximity to them, but also to those around the world.

What Parents Need to Know

Skout’s terms of service state that it’s not for kids under 13 years of age. Their safety awareness center shows that they are making an effort to educate users so that  they use the app safely. However, in 2012, Skout made changes after there were 3 rape cases involving minors and the app. It’s great that the company took action; but please understand – these apps are out there. They are being used by teens. Parents need to be aware and talking to their kids about the apps they are using and what they are sharing.

omegleOmegle

Omegle is one of many “chatroulette” sites. When you begin the session you can select chat or video. Someone is picked at random for you to talk to one-on-one. Identities are kept anonymous unless you choose to give your contact information to the person, and you can stop the chat at any time. This online form of “speed dating” is marketed as “a great way to meet new friends.” If you prefer, you can add your interests, and Omegle will look for someone who has some of those same interests as opposed to someone completely random.

Omegle is available for both Android and iOS devices.

What Teens Say

Teens are drawn to chatroulette type sites. They find these sites fun and will often participate with friends.

What Parents Need to Know

Their catch phrase – “Talk to Strangers” – is the biggest red flag. This is a talking point one can use when/if discussions of this app come up in your home. Chats start out with both parties being anonymous; however, users often share personal information. Nothing is uncensored here, so users are most likely going to have to filter through lots of language and sexual innuendos before they find one person looking for real conversation. Omegle does make you check their terms of agreement and state that you are 18 years or older (ages 13+ can use with parental permission). There doesn’t seem to be any safeguards in place to prevent underage users from joining in sessions (a quick Google search brought up this sad story).

Badoobadoo

Badoo is a social network where you can meet new people. With over 180 million users, Badoo is great for chatting, making friends, sharing interests, and even dating! It’s free and easy to use. You can find new people near you because Badoo uses location based tracking.

Badoo is available for both Android and iOS devices.

What Teens Say

Most teens know Badoo is rated for adults only. They join Badoo because they want to connect with older teens and young adults and avoid the 13-15 age group that you’ll find on other dating apps.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Badoo is an adults-only app for online dating-style social networking. User’s location is identified by tracking his or her device’s location and then matching the profile and pictures of people the user could contact within the surrounding area. Although Badoo is free, there are many options for paid subscriptions and other in-app purchases. The developer does appear to try to keep kids and teens from joining. The terms of use clearly state that Badoo is not for teens and a photo of anyone who is not an adult cannot be posted (this includes photos of an adult user with a child).
hotornot

Hot or Not

Hot or Not is a free app available for both iPhone and Android devices. Upload a photo of yourself and decide if you want to link to your Facebook profile. The main purpose of this app is to rate people as “hot” or “not” just as the name of the app suggests. When two users rate each other as hot, they become connections and are now able to chat with each other. Share your score with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Hot or Not is available for both Android and iOS devices.

What Teens Say

Teens like the ability to give and receive scores. Also, the ability to share the scoresir friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram gives this app an advantage over other apps.

What Parents Need to Know

Hot or Not is rated for users at least 17 years+ for “Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity and Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive Themes” by Apple. The connection is made solely on rating each other as “hot.” In other words, it’s a totally superficial connection. Users then must chat to see if they have any common interests. Teens can become upset when they don’t get the scores that they hope for, especially if their friends receive ratings of “hot” and they don’t. It’s like being told over and over again that you’re ugly. Hot or Not is a totally superficial app where looks come first.

 

I didn’t even cover a fraction of the apps that teens are using these days. My goal was to cover some of them so that you can begin conversations with your teens. I’ll cover more in upcoming weeks.

Let’s keep loving on our teens and talking to them.

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