There’s a great deal of misconception about dating apps, and I fear some parents are avoiding talking to their teens about dating apps because they’re afraid that having the conversation introduces their teens to those apps. I cannot tell you how wrong you are. Seriously wrong. Talking to your teen about dating apps does not introduce them to those apps. Teens know about dating apps simply because they are trendy in their world.
71% of teens use one or more social networking sites. Connecting through a public networked space is something our teens have always known. It is not surprising that a large number of young adults are connecting through various dating apps. New dating apps pop up continually with sites boosting thousands of members. These dating sites cater to every taste and need: from age, to ethnicity, to religion, and even to hobbies and interests. Did you know there is even a dating app for those looking for partners who share the love of cannabis? While some adults may feel a bit of discomfort when discussing dating apps, parents need to understand the perception of online dating has changed for young adults. Online dating is not something viewed by our teens and young adults as unacceptable, but rather something everyone does.
Talking to your teens about dating apps is a conversation every parent must have. Not having the conversation doesn’t prevent your teen from finding out about dating apps. It doesn’t prevent your teen from exploring the world of online dating. It just means they’re likely to explore that world without your knowledge
Not sure what dating apps are or how they work? Want to get more information on dating apps before having a conversation with your child? I’ve done all the research for you! See my page on dating apps.
The Dating Conversation
The dating conversation isn’t an easy one for many parents. Let’s face it, most of us would rather talk about the weather or food than talk to our kids about dating and sex (and often our teens are just as uncomfortable as us during these conversations). Online dating adds a whole extra layer of complexity, simply because it means having frank discussions about sexual predators, stalking, sexting, and online harassment. Parenting isn’t always easy. Parenting doesn’t allow us to stay in our comfortable, cozy spot. But when you’re tempted to avoid the dating conversation, ask yourself, “Do I want my teen to get real information from me, or do I want them to get it from their peer group?”
Understand the Gap
Teens want to date. This isn’t a new transition for our teens. Ask an adult of any age and they’ll tell you stories of being an older teen wanting to date. It’s a natural part of becoming an adult for every generation. What has changed is technology. This is where the gap occurs for many parents. In recent years, technology has changed how we connect with our family and friends on a daily basis. And, with this change, technology is altering how dating looks and works for our teens. That’s the scary part as a parent. Being able to guide our kids through their teen years in a public networked space – and do so safely – is an important part of parenting.
Know the Spaces
There are a number of apps that teens have access to that help them hook up or date, whether online or in person. One of the most popular apps is Tinder. Teens as young as 13 can legally get a Tinder account. In 2014, 7% of Tinder’s users were in the 13-17-year-old range. 51% were ages 18-24. Since 2014, the number of dating apps on the market has grown tremendously. Familiarize yourself with the dating apps that are available. Help your kids understand them when they ask. And, please let your teen talk to you about them. There are a number of dating apps that are just downright raunchy. Know these apps and know why they aren’t a safe option. Your teens need your guidance here. Offer it with wisdom, love, and grace.
Be Open, and Help Keep Your Teens Safe
It’s true, a conversation about online dating and dating apps may be awkward or unpleasant. But, that’s no excuse to avoid it. Jump in and engage your teen. Let them know that you’re there, and that you want to help them grow into adults as safely as possible. Make a family pact to be open and honest even when those conversations are tough. Make sure your teen understands apps rely on the honesty of the user. There is no way to verify the age of the user. In fact, there is nothing preventing a user from creating a false profile. Because of this risk they should never get an account without permission. And, there should never be any secret meetings to meet someone; that is where things get dangerous. Keep things open, honest, and above-board always!
Remind Them of Healthy Boundaries
Self-image, sexting, nude photos, and other dating issues can arise with teens regardless of whether they use dating apps or not. Talk about these issues openly with your teen. Let your teen know there are real repercussions to sexting. Even if sent between minors, sexting can be considered child pornography. The recipient and sender can both be charged of this crime. Anything we send out online or via a message, we do so with the understanding that it can be transmitted. Don’t send anything -ever – that you don’t want shared. And teach your kids to respect themselves. If they receive explicit messages or images, teach them to delete the messages and images. Teach them how to block the sender. If it’s a longtime friend who sent the offensive material, walk your teen through how to handle that situation.
Our teens are living in a connected world. They know about dating apps. Help keep them safe and informed by having honest, ongoing conversations about dating apps.