Teenage use of the popular dating app is growing at least quarter of American teens say they have dated or hooked up with a Tinder date
On a Sunday night sleepover last Christmas, 16-year-old Hannah from Los Altos Hills, California, signed up for Tinder for the first time. It started off as an inside joke between three slumber party attendees, like how teenage girls in the 1990s dared each other to call boys and to discreetly put their conversations on speakerphone.
Hannah and her friends spent the rest of the night rolling around the bed, collectively swiping left or right on the iPhone app. What surprised me was not the outrageously obnoxious pictures of shirtless guys flaunting their muscles, but the amount of familiar faces I saw, she says.
She had expected Tinder to be a place of desperate guys and instead she saw friends from school and her own brother.
Like Facebook, Tinder which uses Facebook to source profiles and verify identity has a minimum age requirement of 13. But unlike Facebook, Tinders teen demographic is growing, not shrinking.
In February 2014, co-founder Justin Mateen disclosed to the Guardian that teens between ages 13 and 17 were over 7% of the user base. [A]s someone whos younger in high school, you want to be a college kid, he said, alluding to Tinders infamous launch strategy of hosting exclusive frat parties at colleges like the University of Southern California (the price of entrance was registration on the app) and signing up hundreds of single college students in one night.
But its not simply a case of copying the Cool Big Kids. Hannah may have downloaded the app as a joke initially, but many teens are efficiently using Tinder to find real-life and online friends, explore their sexuality, find hookups and dates for date-centric events.
According to a series of focus groups of over 100 teens across the United States conducted by Pew Research Center in 2015, 24% of teenagers claimed to have dated or hooked up with someone they initially met online.
In her new book, American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, Nancy Jo Sales noted that more than 3 million thirteen-to-seventeen-year-olds are on Tinder alone, if 7% of the 50 million Tinder users are teenagers. You can be sitting in class getting a boner cause some girl is texting you that she wants to suck your dick, a teenage boy in Los Angeles told Sales.
Brian Wilkey, a PhD candidate in the University of Texas at Austins department of human development and family sciences and host of relationship advice podcast Those Love Geeks!, explains: Its not a notch in your bedpostbut its a notch in your cellphone. Its social status. If you have young, beautiful girls sending you pictures, you have something to be proud of.
Users under age 18 use Tinder in the same way as their adult counterparts, with just one caveat: they only see other minors between ages 13 and 17 and are not allowed to contact or see adult users. Similarly, users over age 18 are not allowed, for obvious reasons, to contact or see minors. But its possible to lie about your age Facebook allows you to change your age a limited number of times.
Consequently, even high school seniors who are 18 years old are inclined to stay within the 13-to-17 age pool out of comfort and safety. I should have been moved over to the 18+ Tinder, but I changed my age on Facebook to 17 so that I can stay in the teenage pool, 18-year-old Nina from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, says. Being in high school and knowing that I wouldnt be taken seriously, I feel more comfortable there.
Nina attends an all-girls Catholic high school and is bisexual, and Tinder has become a way for her to potentially find both male and female romantic partners. I needed an outlet aside from school, knowing that I would be ousted, at the least considered taboo, for my sexuality, she said. Frankly, I didnt quite know what exactly I was looking for, or expecting from [Tinder].
Unlike Hannah, Nina did end up interacting in person with a few of her matches, without her parents knowing. One boy who was moderately attractive and seemed interesting, for example, asked, is it OK if we just chill when she asked if he wanted to hang out Nina didnt realize that he meant the euphemistic Netflix and Chill, not getting pizza and watching a movie. I discovered a pack of condoms he had just bought, lying on the passenger seat of his car, she remembered. As he left, he commented, At least youre not like the sluts at your school, to which I hesitantly said thanks. She deleted Tinder from her phone shortly after that in the summer of 2015, but she re-downloaded it recently.
When youre a teenager living in your parents house looking online for dates, it is logistically more difficult to arrange for physical encounters, even though the possibilities widen. Not all teenagers have cars or drivers licenses, and many of them hide Tinder from their parents.
[My date] had to leave half an hour into our date because her mother had her phone stolen or something like that, Federico, a 16-year-old self-described bi-curious teenage boy from Oakland, California, says. Nina added, Id hate to explain to my parents that I need a ride to meet someone from Tinder. Would any parent allow this? Thats why I used public transportation and kept things quiet from my parents. They still dont have any clue.
Snapchat, consequently, becomes more useful for teenagers desiring some sort of physical interaction. Snapchat doesnt help with getting to know someones personality, but it does help with getting to know their looks. A lot of people who want to Snapchat want to exchange nude pictures, 15-year-old George, a gay teen from Holland, says.
Rosie, a 17-year-old heterosexual female from Chicago, Illinois, also pointed out that Snapchat is used as a safety and legitimacy filter: You can definitely understand if a guy is a creep over Snapchat, though, and see what they actually look like, which is good for both parties. In her experience, teenage boys are obsessed with using Snapchat to source photos from girls, just as AOL chatrooms were used in the 1990s to source photos from girls after a brief A/S/L? query.
Technology adds interesting components to what we and our parents have dealt with, Pew Research Institute associate director Aaron Smith explains. The ways to keep from being creepy are different in a Tinder world or a social media world. In all of these areas, [teenagers] are trying to figure out how to express interest in a way that doesnt come off as desperate or creepy.
There is one uniquely teenage dilemma that spans generations of Americans, at least, that may have been solved by Tinder: finding a date to the prom dance. Before Tinder (or apps) existed, if you wanted to go to prom with someone outside of school and you didnt know anyone, youd trust your friends to set you up on a blind date. But Tinder cuts out the middleman you can vet your blind dates yourself.
I have recently been talking to a boy who I did originally meet on Tinder and I believe that we are going to prom together, Anna, a 17-year-old high school senior in New Jersey, says. I cant tell you how it went [yet], but I hope it goes well.
All names of teenagers who were interviewed have been changed for privacy.