Kids aren’t just passing notes these days. According to Alexis Germany at Reflex Media, “Teenagers are logging onto dating apps [and websites] specifically designed for those over the age of 18. In fact, 29 percent of teenagers who use dating apps admitted they had been in touch with someone over the age of 18.”
Whether you’re for or against online dating—after all, it helps millions of people find a perfect match each year—the following details can help you decide what’s right for you and your teen.
Pros: Arguments for allowing teens to use online dating apps
Your Agreement Can Build Trust
Showing your teen you trust them can reduce tension at home and encourage your child to improve their behavior. Whether you’re rebuilding trust or establishing it with your newly independent teen, learn ways to open better lines of communication.
You are the ultimate authority in your house, but hearing your teen out, giving them a calm and safe space to express their opinions, and talking openly can do a lot for your trust-building.
You Can Talk about Risks to Avoid Them
Whatever you’re worried about with online dating can be discussed with your teen. Candice Blain, managing attorney with Blain LLC, says, “It is important to talk with [your teen] about certain dangers—even if you believe these to be common sense. For instance, it is important to remind teenagers never to send selfies or other images of themselves to a person they met online. In my practice, I often encounter teens battling non-consensual image sharing.”
This type of incident can be devastating to a teen’s emotional well-being, reputation, and college and job prospects. Talk about potential issues and risks with online dating to avoid them down the line.
You Can Set Ground Rules
Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a licensed psychologist and marriage counselor, believes proper rules and regulations make teenage online dating safe. He advises that parents “require full access to [your teen’s] dating app so you can monitor their activity . . . meet the parents of the person they’re dating . . . [They should also] require [teens] to use their own mode of transportation and meet in public places to maximize safety.”
You already know how to set rules for your teen—whether that’s what time curfew is, where they’re allowed to drive the car, or what they’re allowed to watch on TV. Setting guidelines for online dating should be no different.
Cons: Why parents feel teens shouldn’t be allowed to use online dating apps
Cyberbullying Is a Real Danger
One recent study found that 34 percent of children and teens have been cyberbullied. And from news headlines we all know bullying can lead to legal suits, suicide, and a slew of painful side effects.
Many dating apps begin with superficial judgements of looks and personality, which means online dating profiles can be prime targets for malicious cyberbullying.
Teens May Not Be Mature Enough
A 13-year-old using a dating app versus a 19-year-old using the same platform is a night and day difference. David Bennett, a certified counselor, agrees. He says, “Many apps are specifically designed for individuals 18 and over . . . one study of Tinder use by 18- to 21-year-olds found that only 4 percent were looking for a relationship, versus 22 percent looking for a hookup. So a teen using Tinder would be exposed to mostly older people matching and messaging them looking for a hookup.”
Depending on the age of your teen, you might want to prevent them from dating online until they’re mature enough to recognize the difference between someone interested in a real relationship and someone who’s just interested in a hookup.
Online Dating Is Hard to Monitor
The average American kid gets a cellphone at age ten and a half. Whether you want your child to have a phone or not, giving your child access to dating apps and internet (through any mobile device or computer) unsupervised could get them into trouble with catfishing, cyberbullies, or online predators. Unless you monitor your child’s every move on dating apps, they can easily get mixed up in something negative.
Your teen has their whole life to find love and develop new relationships, but you as a father can play a key role in that process. Some parents might think it’s best to prevent teen online dating, while others want to safely encourage independence. Every circumstance is different and it’s ultimately up to you to decide what will work best for your family.