What’s the deal with teen dating apps? Let this Gen Z dater tell you.
How teenagers use social media to this day
Teens don’t have to rely on their friends to get information about their crush when they have a smartphone in hand. With so many people using social media, it’s easy to find love online. They look at posts, photos, and reels on their crush’s various social media sites. Then, if they’re still interested, they’ll follow those testimonials. When they want to signal that they are romantically interested, they will like some older posts. After that, they can send a direct or private message to their love. If your crush is interested, expect texting back and forth as you get to know each other.
But even that is just to get to know someone. This is probably how teenagers get to know several people at the same time. Until they change their social media status to something official like “in a relationship,” teenagers these days are just casual, sometimes choosing to keep their relationship entirely online.
Here’s what you need to know about how your teen meets people online, as well as some Internet safety reminders.
Can teens use social media as a dating app?
Sure, anyone can. Here are the main social media apps used by teens, how social media can be used for online dating, and some ways teens can practice internet safety.
When your teen looks at someone’s Instagram account, you can find out how many connections they have in common, which can help your teen decide if they want to date.
Safe strategies: Simple ways to minimize unwanted attention include talking to your teen about setting their profile to private, posting stories to “close friends” instead of posting publicly, and archiving (or deleting) unwanted photos from their public profile. . Filtering and turning off comments is also easy, and it only takes a few seconds to block or report someone who keeps sending your teen unwanted private messages.
TikTok has become a popular hub for finding new friends. However, it’s important to note that a teen isn’t limited to only seeing posts from the accounts they follow.
Safe strategies: TikTok’s privacy features are similar to Instagram’s and can be accessed through settings. Many privacy features are also automatically turned on. So review these services together and make sure these privacy settings are in place.
Snapchat’s main appeal to teenagers is that Snaps (messages) disappear after being viewed.
Safe strategies: Talk to your teen regularly about what she’s doing with her friends. Talk together specifically about what is worth sending. Teens who engage in dangerous digital behavior, such as taking or receiving inappropriate photos, may think this feature can help prevent those images from ever getting out. But beware: snapshots can also be screenshots, so privacy is never guaranteed.
Discord is a group chat app and website for gamers. Today there are servers for those who are interested in almost anything. It’s the de facto app for online teen group chats. I met most of my internet best friends on Discord servers. It’s also a fun alternative to group chat messaging to people you know in real life.
Safe strategies: Some server channels are age-restricted from 18 years old. Age verification and lock settings are up to the channel manager. That’s why it’s important to talk to your teen about the group chats they use and make sure they’re age-appropriate.
Massively multiplayer online role-playing games or MMORPGs
What better way to meet someone with similar interests than while doing something you love? Chat features in MMORPGs and real-time strategy games allow your teen to chat with people around the world and form lasting relationships.
Safe strategies: When making and finding new friends in these games, make sure your teen is mostly playing with friends they know from school. Talk to them regularly about the friends they play with and how they know them. It’s also important not to share your personal information in a private chat with someone you don’t know.
The Dangers of Online Dating for Teens
Like anything else a teenager does online, online dating leaves a digital footprint. Plus, online dating potentially leaves your teens vulnerable to bullying or harassment. Even if you’ve already talked to your kids about how to handle these situations on social media, rethink those conversations by discussing how to safely use dating apps for your teen.
It is also wise to discuss what their goals are in these relationships and to make sure that the person they are interested in has the same goal in mind. Some teenagers want to be serious, while the ones they’re in a relationship with don’t. Encourage them to communicate their expectations early to avoid disappointment or hurt feelings later.
Also, keep in mind that no matter how strict the filtering and controls are on dating apps for teens, your kids will still be exposed to inappropriate content or behavior.
One of the biggest risks they face is meeting someone they only know online. It’s easy for people to misrepresent themselves online by hiding behind a fake persona. If your teen is planning to take an online relationship off the screen, discuss meeting with a friend or trusted adult in a public place.
Unfortunately, teen dating apps and online social platforms are fertile ground for catfishing and predators to groom and then exploit their victims. Warn your teens not to send overtly sexual photos to anyone. Also warn them not to solicit them, because if the sender is under 18, or if they send photos of a minor, your child could get into legal trouble.