We frequently encourage parents of teens to take a few minutes every once in a while to check which apps are on their teen’s phone. Seeing what apps are there, and actually having a conversation about what they do and what they’re used for, can be a very helpful step in figuring out what your teen is doing online, and if anything is amiss.
What if you do check your teen’s phone and you see a hookup app on there? We don’t mean a real dating app, but rather one that is primarily used to find people in your area who are looking for a casual fling. Among the most popular are the following:
What are the relevant issues for parents? I signed up for a Tagged account to take a closer look, and reviewed the Terms of Service of the other five.
Age limits – The age limit for Meet Me, Skout and Tinder is 13. For Tagged, Badoo and Zoosk, the age limit is 18. When I signed up for Tinder, there was no real age verification – I could have selected any age I wanted as long as it was over 18. Basically, the age limit isn’t stopping anyone from signing up.
Profile picture – Users are encouraged to upload a profile picture, and everyone does, because nobody is going to be interested without first seeing a picture.
Location – Each of the sites above use location as a key feature, which makes sense because you could hardly hook up with someone hundreds of miles away.
Stopping right here, if your teen is using a hookup app, in all likelihood she has posted an appealing profile picture and told thousands or millions of other users her location. Not safe at all.
Content – All of these sites prohibit sexually explicit content, so you needn’t worry about your teen viewing nudity. There is no doubt, however, that there is sexting going on between willing members.
Cyberbullying – All sites prohibit harassment, so cyberbullying should not be an issue if the moderators do their job, but I there is a chance that someone posting an unflattering profile picture would receive harsh comments in return.
What to do if you’re concerned – If you find your teen using a hookup app, have him or her delete the account entirely, and remember that it is not enough to just delete the app. Other users will still be able to make contact unless the entire account is deleted.
The bottom line is that there are documented cases of sexual predators using a false identity and a dating app to lure victims. It is not safe for teens to meet strangers online, and a website or app built specifically for this purpose, with the goal of an in-person meeting, is just a bad idea for teens. Not all strangers online are who they say they are.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.