That’s what Alyssa did and how she ended up listed as 18. “If you’re 16 but saying you’re 19, that will put you in an uncomfortable situation should you meet up. Some 18- and 19-year-olds whom Alyssa swiped right on were overtly sexual. (Some popular dating apps, including Hinge and Happn, don’t allow anyone under 18 to join; others like Meet Me and Bumble, on the other hand, do.) Perhaps because of these risks, many teens seem to be cautious.
Rachel*, 16, of New York City, lasted just an hour on Tinder.
“I got messages saying, ‘I’m only a mile away—wanna meet up? She says she’s probably never going to use it again.
This past August she started interning for Bumble—the app works like Tinder, but only women are allowed to initiate conversations—which entails promoting it at her school.
She confesses her friends thought dating apps were “weird at first, but now they check Bumble like Snapchat and Instagram.” (The company says 10 percent of its users are under 18.) Among the 30-plus minors interviewed for this story, those who have tried dating apps say the main attraction is meeting someone they haven’t already known for years.
Alyssa, for instance, downloaded Tinder after breaking up with a classmate; she didn’t want to go out with someone else she passed in the halls every day.
Alyssa, 17, a high school senior in Miami, was texting a new guy she thought was cute. New York magazine’s The Cut website described the Tinder crowd as “single people who hang out at bars,” and it’s become known for facilitating hookups and last-minute dates among those in their 20s and 30s.
They were setting up a date when he sent a message that shocked her. To enter a bar, however, you usually have to be 21; the age of admission to Tinder is just 13—and Alyssa’s hardly the only teen on the app.
Alyssa didn’t meet this man at school or the mall—she met him on Tinder, the location-based dating app that lets you swipe right for “like” and left for “pass.” Once two people swipe right on each other, they’re matched and can send messages and move the interaction from online to IRL.The company won’t reveal its exact number of users, but it did disclose that 2.5 percent are people ages 13 to 17.If you do the math based on a late-2014 story in The New York Times, which reported that the app had nearly 50 million active users at the time, you’re left with well over a million users under 18 on the platform.As a precaution, minors on Tinder can see only other minors. D., a clinical psychologist who specializes in adolescents, says, “If that’s how they’re making conversation, cut it off.” Adults who want to prey on children can lie about their age too.“We want people to be safe,” says Rosette Pambakian, Tinder’s vice president of global communica- tions and branding. In 2012 the meeting app Skout temporarily suspended its under-18 section, which had safeguards similar to Tinder’s, after adult men were accused of raping and sexually assaulting minors in three separate incidents.“If you’re not lying about your age, we’re not showing you 40-year-olds.” Still, teens can easily circum- vent this hurdle by lying about their age on Facebook, which is how Tinder authenticates new users (the minimum age to join Facebook is 13). According to Augusta Nissly, the program coordinator for Family Online Safety Institute, lying is one of the most dangerous things you can do when using dating apps. They allegedly pretended to be under 18 in order to lure their victims.