Perhaps I’ve been living under a rock, or perhaps this is a new thing – but 13 year old kids are using Tinder to “swipe right” to find “friends” – but let’s be honest, Tinder isn’t a friend finder, it’s a date finder and more. This is an important thing for parents to know and understand in this modern digital world.
There’s a story in today’s Courier Mail detailing how kids as young as 13 are using the “hook up” app Tinder to meet people. Concerning as this is, I think it gets worse the more you dig into it.
I appeared on The Today Show to discuss this and given I had not used Tinder (Being a happily married father of three!) we sat off air in the studio to see just what was involved. This was eye-opening to say the least.
Setting Up an Account
Tinder doesn’t have its own user account system – it’s entirely based on Facebook. You cannot have a Tinder profile without a Facebook account.
In the space of 15 minutes I’d setup a brand new Facebook Account. Fake Name, Fake Photo, Verified through an email address that I could have easily setup 10 minutes earlier.
Once your Facebook account is set up (you only need to have received a single email and clicked a link in that email to confirm you used a valid email account) you can open up Tinder and “login with Facebook”
Tinder doesn’t ask your age. It gets that from Facebook.
How does Facebook get that? You enter it. If you enter a birth date that would have you aged less than 13 you get an error message – interestingly this error does not state that it is due to your age, it simply doesn’t let you sign up.
But, most 13 year olds, and importantly the 11 and 12 year olds around them know that the youngest you can be on Facebook is 13.
So, flick backwards a year or two in the year of birth and you’re in.
This means any one, of any age, with the smarts to use a device and download the Facebook app – can sign up. There is no verification of age. None. Simply enter a date that puts the profile over the age of 13 and you’re in.
So kids are pretending to be older? or Younger?
Both. You’ve got 11 and 12 year olds creating Facebook profiles by entering a birthdate that shows them as 13 – plus, you’ve got 18year olds or 52 year olds registering accounts that show them as somewhere between 13 and 17 – why? Tinder, among other things.
Getting into Tinder
So you’ve got a Facebook account – yay!
Now you open up Tinder and log in with that account. The next step is to verify your account via an SMS. Now most 12 and 13 year olds have mobile phones, certainly older kids do. So they can enter a mobile number, receive the SMS code and enter it to open the app.
But, an 11 year old could put in mum or dad’s phone number while mum’s phone is sitting on the table – get the code sent through – and hey presto – they’re on Tinder.
Yes, it will happen. This is another great reason NOT to let your kids have your phone’s passcode. Even if the message appears on-screen and they log in – if they have your passcode they can delete the SMS that you received, so you’ve got no record of it happening and are none the wiser.
What’s in Tinder?
Tinder is a very smart app, it uses your profile and your location to suggest other Tinder users in the area you might want to connect with.
Immediately after you login to the app you’ll see a profile of a user that you might want to connect with. You swipe to the left if you’re not interested, swipe right if you are interested.
If that user then sees your profile in their Tinder app and they too swipe right – bingo – you’re a match. The process of you chatting on Tinder commences.
Fun, harmless chat. After all, as I read on one site today – “no sexual activity occurs on Tinder”. Correct, technology ain’t that great yet.
But Tinder is a way to find people, initiate a conversation and potentially meet in person and who knows from there.
Tinder doesn’t match under 18’s with people over 18 – 13-17 year olds can even choose the “age range” in which they want to see potential matches.
The problem is – as I’ve proven above, one’s “online age” is no certainty of their real age.
The worry here is – is that profile real?
That person who looked cute or you loved their smile? Swipe right? Cool. They can upload any photo they like to get your attention.
And they are pretty clever folks those that are using apps like this to “groom” young kids. Even after you “match” they can send you more pics of “themselves” which aren’t intact them.
So what do you do?
As parents, you can’t stop it.
Don’t tell me that Tinder should be shut down – it simply won’t be, and even if it was – another one would be created and kids would go there.
We can only address this through education.
Parent’s have to know these apps exists, and that Facebook is the key to an open door of very interesting things on the internet.
Kids have to know what’s out there in the big wide world. There are predators, people who will pretend to be someone you like, someone you would want to play with at the park – but they are out there to potentially abuse you and they can be very nasty people.
These are not easy conversations to have, you don’t want to scare kids about the world around them – but unfortunately, a reality check is critical.
Parents need to establish regular conversations with their kids of all ages about what they’re doing online. What online chat are they on – Clash of Clans? Facebook messenger? Tinder. Don’t fight it, be part of it. You don’t have to support it, you just have to know it’s going on. Banning things and pushing them away will simply drive kids to an alternative source, or a hidden device.
Kids need to know that their parents don’t want to know every detail of who they are talking to at all times of the day, they’re just keen to ensure things are safe and prevent the worst from happening
If you’re going to be on Facebook, or on Tinder – there have to be rules. Rules like mum and dad will always have access to your device, to your private chats, to your messages.
And while this will be a tough one for parents to even consider, there have to be rules about meeting people on Tinder.
Sure a 13 year old shouldn’t be meeting anyone in my view – but can you stop a 16 year old? Probably not. So why not establish rules that support them in some way.
- All conversation must happen on Tinder – or an app of your choice – one that can be monitored at all times. Don’t let the external “new” person determine which app you use – for all you know that app is the one that police can’t monitor or get access to user data about. The benefit of the biggest tech companies in the world being involved is that they cooperate with authorities when it comes to helping track people down who are up to no good.
- Take a friend – never let your kids meet someone new on their own. Sure they might not want you with them – but try that first! Worst case let them go as a group.
- Meet in public – never ever let the person at the other end determine where you are meeting. Meet in a place where mum or dad can be nearby – perhaps there’s a coffee shop across the road?
This seems outrageous to some – who would let their kids meet someone random from the internet. Deal with it folks, it’s happening every day. Best you understand now what’s happening before it gets away from you – because it will, and fast.
You cannot and don’t want to be that evil parent. Overprotective yes, evil no.