Are Dating Apps Safe?
Are Dating Apps Safe?
by Grace Manger
OK, first of all: I LOVE THIS QUESTION! Everything from the subject matter (I’m a nerd and love talking about how technology is changing how we interact with each other) to the fact that your millennial son is talking to you about his dating life (bless him and your open, loving relationship) to your genuine concern for his safety. It makes me literally giddy that I now get to sit down and share what I know about the subject, as someone who basically has a PhD in meeting people online (just kidding, Mom).
I’m here to tell you, dear parent, that dating apps can absolutely be a totally safe way to meet people to date! Not only is it safe, but at this point it is so extremely normal. When dating apps first surfaced, there was a huge stigma attached to those who used them. There was a perception that people who used dating apps weren’t cool/attractive/interesting enough to meet someone in real life and had to hide behind a screen and Photoshop to find someone. Couples who met online dreaded the obligatory “How did you two meet?” question—I even know people who mutually agreed with their partner to create a decoy scenario in which they met in a coffee shop and “just hit it off!”
However, I really feel like all of that is in the past. For young people especially, we’ve all just accepted that we spend 80% of our time on our phones anyways and are too busy with school and work and calling our Senators to protect our health care to meet someone cute in a bar (does anyone meet anyone in a bar anymore?). In fact, the majority of people I know met their partners using a dating site.
For LGBTQ people especially, dating apps are a great way to circumvent the mental gymnastics of “Hey, that person over there is cute! But are they queer? If I go over and talk to them, will they reciprocate or be offended that I thought they were gay?” It can be super awkward—and depending on where you live, even dangerous—to try and meet other queer people to date while navigating a world that still assumes everyone is straight and cisgender. Dating apps eliminate the “But are they queer?” question because the answer is: yes! If your son logs on as a man interested in meeting other men, anyone who shows up on his feed as a potential match will also be a man interested in meeting other men. From there, he can focus on narrowing down potential matches based on their values, interests, and whether or not they’re looking for the same kind of relationship.
There are a million dating apps out there that your son could try out, and a lot of people use more than one at a time. Tinder and OkCupid are both very popular and also super gay-friendly, as they allow you to adjust your settings so you only see (and are seen by) people of the genders you’re interested in. When your son downloads an app, he’ll be able to identify himself as a gay man. Then, the app’s homescreen (think of it like your Facebook timeline where you see your friends’ status updates and photos) will show him profiles of other men interested in men. He can then browse their profiles and photos, “like” someone to let them know he’s interested, and if they reciprocate, they can start a chat to get to know each other a little better. From there, the conversation might fizzle out, or they might make plans to meet up in person.
Now, on to safety. Like anything online, there are ways to use dating apps safely and not-so-safely. This part should really be lumped into a larger conversation about internet safety if it’s something you’re concerned about with your son. I think dating apps can feel particularly insular and separate from the rest of the internet, but anything shared on a dating app is recorded and can be captured with a screenshot and shared widely. In building his profile, your son should be careful to not include any personal information about himself, like his address or phone number, or any photos that he wouldn’t freely share with you, his boss, or his teachers. Instead, he can share his hobbies, what kind of relationship he’s looking for, or what he’s been watching on Netflix lately.
If he ends up matching with someone and they end up wanting to meet up or go on a date, a public location is the safest place to start. Asking the other person to meet at a coffee shop, restaurant, or dog park will give your son the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation with the other person, learn more about them, and get a feel on whether or not he’d like to see them again. Another safety precaution would be for your son to let someone else (a friend, roommate, or yourself!) know where and when he’s meeting someone new. I would say that most people use apps for the same good intentions of meeting someone to date, but if he gets a bad gut feeling about someone, he should leave and stop contact with them. Note that these safety precautions aren’t all that different from meeting someone offline to begin with!
Thanks for reaching out to My Kid Is Gay with your question. While dating apps are second nature to most young people at this point, I totally understand your questions and safety concerns. We all deserve someone who turns us into the heart eyes emoji, and I hope I gave you some ideas for how your son can use dating apps safely to find someone he connects with! 😍
Grace is the Senior Managing Editor here at My Kid Is Gay. A graduate of Kalamazoo College in Michigan, she now lives in Portland, Oregon. In her spare time, she can be found reading feminist theory, writing letters, and doing handstands around the world. Follow her on Twitter @gracemanger