I remember clearly the day that my 16-year-old son confessed he was on Tinder.
It was a champagne Sydney day, bright blue sky and sun belting down on the sand at our local beach. I’d managed to extricate him from the comfort of the lounge, out the front door, into the sunlight, all the while not looking away from his iPhone.
This is hardly breaking news to any parent of a teenager. Or any parent of a tweenie. Or any parent, such is our growing psychological dependence on these devices.
For all the hormones surging through his lean lanky body he’s a pretty congenial, easy-going and compliant teenager. I, on the other hand, am none of those things. So when I bark orders to step away from the phone he generally does.
But not this occasion. It was the 15th time (ok maybe 4th) I’d asked who he was talking to. The standard response was a group Facebook chat with mates from his all-boys’ school on topics ranging from feminism (I know, unbelievable right?), the best Marvel movie, plotlines to The Walking Dead, their excruciating inability to organise a catch up at the movies and other details teenage boys exchange that I simply don’t want to know about.
The conversation went like this:
Me: “Who are you talking to?”
Teen: “No one.”
Teen, mumbling. “A girl.”
“Mmmmm. What girl?”
“Just a girl.”
“Where did you meet her?"
My interest piques. “Facebook?”
Teen, barely audible. “Tinder"
Me, thinking the sea breeze has carried the wrong words to my ear drums. “I’m sorry, what?”
“I’m on Tinder.”
Me, increasingly shrill. “What do you mean you’re on Tinder??!! I’m not on Tinder!! How are you on Tinder?? What is this Kinder Tinder? Are you f*&*ing joking??!! You’re only 16!! Show me the phone now. Give it to me.”
As we all know, dating on Tinder doesn't always go to plan... (Post continues after video.)
He hands it over, sighing. Showing me a photo of a very cute, very petite brunette. No fish face, no excessive make up, no bathroom mirror selfie and actually wearing clothes that covered all necessary private parts. So of course I decided it was a ruse and this was actually a 55-year-old, 16-stone ped in a basement wearing food-stained elasticised trackies that barely contained his hairy gut, pretending to be a cute Eurasian girl from Hurstville.
“How do you know that’s who she is? How do you know it’s not a … (insert above description)”
“Funny you should say that… I assured her I wasn’t a 60-year-old pedophile. She seemed to believe me. We’re going on a date next weekend.”
I felt my face burn and it wasn’t from the sun. How had my darling boy’s online obsession gone from being buried in Minecraft to hourly Facebook chats with mates to… Tinder. And getting dates?
It wasn’t sure what upset me the most. That he was on Tinder, or that he was having more luck with online dating apps than I was as a single woman in her 40s.
So he had the date. We had a pre-briefing that consisted of me issuing all sorts of warnings that included staying where he said he would be and having a safety words via text in case he got roped into God know’s what.
His questions for me were far more reasonable – do I kiss her on the cheek, shake hands or hug when we meet? Do I pay for the movie tickets? What do I say at the end?
I’ve seen the alarm at Tinder for Teens. I understand the discomfort and concern. But two months on from that first date (which went nowhere), my son’s confidence in talking to girls has gone through the roof.
He has made new girl-friends, one who is gay, and he and his mates have Skype group chats a few times a week. They discuss issues that they’re interested in, they gossip, they tease each other … just like we did with our friends on 30 cent phone calls that went for hours in the 80s.
It might be a hook-up site for adults but there is nothing I’ve seen to suggest this is the case for the 13-17-year-olds that use it.
They’re going to do it anyway. They’re digital natives and smarter than us, so as a parent just talk to them, and you might discover it’s not nearly as bad as you think. I know it wasn’t for me.
How would you feel about your son or daughter using Tinder?