Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Feb. 25, 2014

Teens and Online Dating Apps

Project Administrator, Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI)
For as short as the month is, February sure has a lot of Days: Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, and President’s Day. But there are a few days that most people don’t know about – the days that make up last week’s International Flirting Week

While it’s a pretty recent phenomenon in the US, it’s slowly gaining popularity and talks about it are often coupled with flirting tips and dating advice. Reading through various blogs and posts made me realize – aside from the obvious mistakes I was making, of course – just how many more opportunities there are for flirting today. 

When I was growing up, we did a little flirting and playful messaging through AOL Instant Messenger (gasp!) and our Nokia black-and-white-display phones (double gasp!) but that was the extent of our digital dalliances. Most of it happened in person: at school, on the bus, at the movies. 

Today’s teens are flirting in an entirely different landscape. Sure, they are still flirting in hallways, backseats, and theaters, but they are also flirting over text message, social media, and apps specifically designed for flirting and dating. 

Online Dating Apps Your Teen May Be Using 

Tinder: Tinder is an app that links to a user’s Facebook profile. Tinder gathers a user’s basic information and matches them with potential candidates that are most likely to be compatible based on geographical location, number of mutual friends, and common interests. If users “like” each other, they are alerted and are then able to start a private messaging conversation. (Tinder is rated 12+ and has a 13+ age requirement.) 

 OkCupid: OkCupid is an app and website that allows users to create a profile which can be rated by other users. While users cannot search out others by name, they are served up potential matches that they can either rate, message, or start an instant message with. (OkCupid is rated 12+ and has an 18+ age requirement.) 

 Grindr: Grindr is an app for gay and bisexual men. The app helps users find other men by utilizing their phone’s location services. Users can log on and instantly see other Grindr members in the area, share pictures, and chat. (Grindr is rated 17+ and has an 18+ age requirement.) 

 Skout: Skout is a location-based app that allows users to connect with others in their area and their “Meet Me” feature allows users to flip through and see who’s nearby. Users can send each other pictures, “wink” at each other, chat, send gifts, and get alerts when other users come online. (Skout is rated 12+ and has a 13+ age requirement.) 

 Lulu: Lulu is an app that lets its female users anonymously rate and review men they have dated or gone out with. (Lulu is rated 17+ and has an 18+ age requirement.) 

 Tingle: Tingle allows users to find other Tingle users in the area, flirt via text, and make phone calls to another user without exchanging their real world contact information. (Tingle is rated 17+ and has an 18+ age requirement.) 

Some of the services these apps offer may seem a little salacious. But instead of panicking or jumping to conclusions, use what you just read to have a conversation with your teen. Ask them if they or their friends use any of these apps. Ask them what stories they have heard or what experiences they have had personally.

 I can guarantee it will be awkward but you are setting yourself up to be the trusted, informed adult – something that will only serve you both should anything “like totally embarrassing” happen online.

                                                                                        **************

 February is also home to Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Did you know that 33% of adolescents in the US have experienced sexual, physical, verbal, or emotional dating abuse? The dating apps talk could be your opening to talk about signs of an abusive relationship. There are tips for how to help teens distinguish those here

 Cover image courtesy of Flickr.