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. Tinder was one of them until recently, with 7% of its users aged between 13 and 17 (outnumbering 35 to 44-year-olds.
The previous age limit was heavily criticised, with some arguing it could put teens at risk and expose them to inappropriate contact.
This group is just one of the popular communities of “Teen Dating” networks that are on Facebook, and parents need to take notice.
On January 1st, a 7th grader, Nicole Lovell posted a selfie in the group with the caption, “cute or nah.” The photo received over 300 responses, many of them which were mean and vicious.
Swipe pictures of other teenagers around you, and swipe right to become friends.
The first result was “Spotafriend”, a Tinder alternative for teens, and the second was called “Hook up Now”. The majority amongst the others were mostly chat apps, with the exception of “spin the bottle” and “Asian flirt & hookup”. According to the company’s Linked In page: “Meet teens near you with Spotafriend, the Tinder alternative for people ages 13-19……and swipe right to accept. Teens today are way more open to different lifestyles and cultures. 19-year-old’s are men and have no business mingling with 13-year-old girls and vice versa.
Because “Spotafriend” was in the top spot, I downloaded it and began to login with my personal Facebook account. Well, this very high tech safe guard sequence was literally me, taking a selfie, holding up three fingers. I’m a 42 year old woman; who is not supposed to be using this app, according to their disclaimer. It’s hard to meet new friends when you’re stuck in school with the same people all day, year after year. And isn’t it up to their parents to expose them to different cultures and lifestyles? Given the fact that kids are in fact having sex younger these days, this combination has danger written all over it. I have to say that at first glance, most photos are relatively innocent looking and very selfie-ish and very few teens bother to write anything about themselves in the description. Do I initiate contact with one of these kids, for the purpose of journalism or just delete the app? I go back to Google and find some pre-press for this app from earlier this year. Built for i Phone, Spotafriend has a security feature to block adults and predators….” Secure my ass! Clearly there is no real safe guard, age restriction or parental control within this app, which frightens me.