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Raising Christian children in today’s world can be overwhelming at times. It’s becoming increasingly harder to protect teens from negative influences; everywhere we look we are faced with a world saturated with questionable materials on our devices, social media, and internet. Unfortunately, our sons and daughters are now beginning to use online dating sites to meet new people and discover romantic interests.
As difficult as it is to believe, dating has evolved since we were teens. Teens no longer mix at socials, dances, and yes, even malls. Today’s teens are going digital, because our highly connected children use social media as their preferred method of communication. For parents, we need to understand that one popular dating app our teens are flocking to is adult oriented, Tinder.
What Exactly Is Tinder?
Tinder is an app geared for Smartphones that combines instant messaging and GPS technology with traditional online dating. Users are treated to a visual buffet of images from registered people within the same general location. Anonymously, Tinder users swipe right if they like a person’s profile or left if they are not interested. If both users “like” what they see, the app reveals the identity of the other person which leads to messaging and meeting in real life.
Tinder has traditionally been associated with hookups and finding sexual encounters. Over 50 million people are logged onto Tinder any given month with 26 million matches happening everyday! While most users are over eighteen, the site openly admits 7 percent of registered users are between the ages of thirteen and seventeen. Yes, thirteen year olds can make accounts on Tinder. To put it into perspective, that is 3.5 million of our children swiping right or left for a hookup!
Online Dating, Tinder, And Teens… Oh My!
Realizing that our teens are dating online can be hard to digest, but Tinder stresses that teens are only matched with others in their age range. However, we need to consider that 80 percent of our teens lie about their real ages on social media sites. This is sobering for parents, because a little fib about a child’s age suddenly exposes them to much older, wiser, and experienced people who might not have honorable intentions towards our kids.
And teens aren’t the only ones hiding their real ages. The registration format on the site technically doesn’t prevent any user from using false ages or names on the app. Online predators take advantage of the internet’s anonymity by creating fake identities. This habit makes them appear like a teenager which makes it easier to lure in and groom new targets.
Unfortunately, online predators aren’t the only danger lurking on Tinder for our children. Many of our sons and daughters use relationships or sexual encounters to define their popularity and self worth. This need for validation can lead teens to experiment and make risky decisions while using the Tinder app. This in turn, opens them up to mature situations they aren’t able to handle.
8 Essential Tips For Teens And Online Dating
Our kids face temptation daily with the tap of a finger and it’s up to us to arm them with the proper skills and knowledge to navigate this new digital landscape. If we simply forbid our children to download this app, we are setting them up to be adults who won’t have the necessary skills to safely try online dating if they choose to do so. We need to make sure our kids know how to keep themselves safe.
For more information on protecting our children when it comes to online dating, please read the following suggestions:
Provide opportunities for children to mingle with peers in a safe social setting. Without hovering, host a game night or take the kids out to the movies. Find activities for children to become involved in and hopefully they will be able to define themselves outside of a romantic relationship.
Avoid sharing personal information. Let children know that they should keep their names, addresses, phone numbers, schools, schedules, and activities private.
Consider implementing a technology contract. This is a formal agreement that the family compiles together specifically outlining expectations and consequences for using technology. Everyone will be on the same page, helping alleviate potential conflicts.
Have an ongoing discussion about sexting and social media etiquette. Don’t avoid these topics, because good manners are an essential tool when it comes to online protection.
Help children plan for the future by understanding how online and sexual interactions can harm potential relationships and children. Images posted online, STD’s, and regrets have a nasty habit of haunting people years after they were snapped. Stress to teens that it is alright to say no.
Encourage children and teens to find a partner with morals and beliefs that are similar to the ones they embrace. Teens should have a little fun, but make sure they understand the possible consequences of inappropriate interactions.
Monitor a child’s internet activity, Smartphone, or other device. Children and teens are notorious for hiding their online activity from us. Don’t wait until it’s too late to be in the know. Friend your child on Facebook, track their phones, have access to passwords, and periodically check in with your child to see their authentic digital footprint.
Model healthy relationships and online activities. We have one advantage over social media: our presence. Our children are taking mental notes of how we behave and interact with those around us. Set a child up for success by leading with a good example of a loving and committed couple.
How do you encourage healthy dating for your teens?
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Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a freelance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics.
Publication date: March 22, 2016