What Parents Should Know About Teen Dating Apps

It seems like just yesterday that your child was pleading for an Instagram account.  Now, only a short while later, teen dating apps are the latest battle.  Keeping your child safe online is a big job.  It’s not just that teens may post inappropriate pictures, tell family secrets, or suffer a broken heart but there are actual predators out there, — and they know how to find teens. Since you can’t stop them from growing up , you should arm yourself with good information. 

Popular Teen Dating Apps 

There are dozens of teen dating apps and new ones are popping up all the time.  Below, we’ve listed a few of the most popular sites that cater to 13- to 17-year olds.  Keep in mind that many adult dating sites require no age verification. So your teen can use any apps commonly used by adults to find love — that includes Tinder, Hinge, Bumble and Match.com. 

These apps can be fun when used with caution. As a parent, the best thing you can do is be alert and maintain open channels of communication with your kids. 

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Here are five dating apps for teens.

MyLOL

Although users must be between the ages of 13 and 19 to use MyLOL, there are lots of profiles without pictures and age is not verified.  Guidelines prohibit semi-nude photos, but a quick check of the home page exhibits more than a few provocative poses.  According to parental reviews, there are reportedly chat topics referencing drug use, alcohol and violence.  One family discovered that several adult men had targeted their young teen daughter through this popular app.

Our Teen Network

This is a dating and social networking site with mostly unmoderated chat rooms and video chats.  You can view profiles without registering on the site.  While the site is basic and purports to be safe, there are few features that protect users.  It is both comforting and disconcerting that the sign-up page contains stern warnings against posting sexual images and advising of the site’s collaboration with law enforcement and the FBI.

Skout

Although age isn’t verified on Skout, teens are separated from adults — but there is nothing preventing users from posing as older or younger, whatever their preference.  In 2012, Skout developers introduced stricter safety protocols after serious allegations were levied against predatory users.  Currently, user locations are no longer disclosed and teens can’t send pictures in private messages.  However, some posts do contain suggestive pictures. 

Kik

Kik is popular for its ability to post memes, videos and images along with texts of unlimited length.  In addition to friends, teens can connect with strangers.  Despite spending $10 million in 2017 to improve its security and content moderation, Kik is still plagued by scandal.  The most recent involves a former elementary school principal arrested on child sex crime charges. 

Yobo

Known as Tinder for teens, Yobo separates user groups by age.  However, with a self-confirmed system of verification and parental permission, users can easily present a false identity.  The site also offers live-streaming.  This means that a teen user can broadcast live from their bedroom to an audience of unlimited watchers.

How to Protect Your Teen

After learning more about teen dating sites, you may decide that it’s best to block access.  You can do this via settings on your child’s iPhone or Android.  They won’t be able to download anything you won’t know about.  This is perfect for younger teens who may not yet understand how to keep themselves safe. 

But for older teens who are afforded more freedom, this may not be realistic.  In this case, the best approach is to help them understand how to use these apps safely and responsibly.  For that, you’ll need to exercise your best parental skills and some solid strategies. 

Here’s what we recommend:

  • Along with your teen, research any dating app they want to use to discover what issues the app has had. 
  • Make sure your teen understands how easy it is for people to misrepresent themselves online
  • Discuss how to handle unwanted attention online, including ignoring, blocking, or reporting other users.
  • Remind your teen that whatever they post online may have consequences later in school, sports, jobs and relationships.
  • Discuss with your teen those characteristics, beyond looks, such as beliefs and values that are important both in our society and within your own family.
  • Talk to teens about the work that goes into creating healthy relationships.
  • Discuss how to set and maintain appropriate boundaries between self and others. 

In-Person Meetings

What if your teen wants to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they’ve met online? You’ll definitely want to go with them.  Before you agree to that step, you can check out the new friend — if he or she is over 18 — on Spokeo.  The search tools are easy to use and all you need to do is input a little information to get a more complete picture.

Dating is hard enough, aside from learning to cautiously navigate the online world. With just a little effort, you can help your teen avoid difficult and potentially dangerous social situations while still enjoying the benefits of innovative technologies.

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