Social media services, like Snapchat and Instagram have consistently been useful tools for teenagers to create conversation with others. Recently, a whole different type of social media has become popular among minors that introduces a whole new set of dangers. These services are commonly referred to as “dating sites”.
Tinder is typically the first service that comes to mind when talking about internet dating services, as it is widely considered to be the most popular dating site. Tinder recently reported a U.S. mobile audience of 7.86 million users in September 2019, making the app the most popular online dating service in the United States, according to Statista.
One of the biggest rules Tinder has in place is it’s age restriction policy. Tinder states on it’s website that users must be 18 years of age to create an account and use the service. However, this policy hasn’t prevented teenagers from using the service.
“My friend told me she had an account on Tinder, and she said it was entertaining so I decided to get it as a joke,” senior Delaney Phillips said.
It is not uncommon for teenagers to be shamed for not having a significant other. Combine this with the peer pressure some teens receive to do things outside of their comfort zone to be socially accepted, and suddenly the “swipe-right” culture of dating apps becomes even more appealing to teenagers. This is especially true when they struggle with creating relationships in person, or are seen as “not popular”.
Apps like Yubo and Yellow have been able to find success by marketing to this crowd. Yubo and Yellow are both services built to recreate a similar experience and feel as Tinder. The description these two apps give is what helps it stand out compared to Tinder.
Yubo describes its service as a way to help “make new friends”, and “meet new people”. Yubo takes users and separates them into one of two communities, one designed for adults, and one for teenagers.
Just like any form of social media, there’s no way to prove one’s age when registering, which results in many unauthorized users joining the non-intended group, and puts teenagers at risk when adults shield themselves behind teenager profiles.
Moreover, adults aren’t the only ones hiding behind false identities. Teens can be just as guilty. Junior Tannor Lambert created a Yubo profile under a false identity of a historic figure, and was banned from the service after just 15 minutes.
“I just thought the app would be a fun thing to use for a little bit. I never had any serious intentions with it”. Lambert said.
The common theme with teenagers is that they're only using these dating apps only for a source of entertainment. “I ended up snapchatting a few people I met off Tinder, nothing lasted very long and I never took anything too serious” Phillips said.
Despite teenagers claiming that they are just using this type of social media for entertainment, parents still fear for their children's safety.
“You never know who is on the other end of the dating site. It is often a predator and Ohio is high in human trafficking.” said Chrisi Hagan, who has a son in the 11th grade at Orange.
When asked about what we can do to better prevent minors from using dating sites, Hagan replied “Education of realities via short videos on social media sites used by teens with popular musicians, athletes, or actors they like can help influence minors. Also, parental reinforcement of the value of healthy relationships can help”.
It is important for parents to be observant of their teenagers, especially in a world full of developing technology that provides frequent dangers.