© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2022

Underage queer safety on dating apps

Daniel Perese
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Grindr Messaging  Daniel Perese

More and more underage LGBT+ people are starting to use dating/hook up apps and it's becoming a problem for their safety.

Jennifer Shields from Qtopia has worked with many underage rainbow youths using these apps. 

She believes the reason for queer youths going on these apps is due to them feeling like it's an easy and safe place for them to be more open and out about their identity. 

Shields knows there will always be young people on these apps where sexuality and relationships are transactional.  

The advice Qtopia gave youths was to stay safe and to talk to their friends about online interactions, who can give them advice or decisions on how they move forward with these apps. 

A tertiary student, Ian Jones, used apps like Grindr and Tinder since he was 17 years old.

Jones said a lot of men over the age of 50 would try to manipulate him, when he was younger.

In his high school there wasn’t much of a dating pool for gay people as the majority of his school identified as straight.

But if there were more people like him, he feels he wouldn’t have gone on those apps as he regrets downloading them.

He calls these types of apps “addicting” and bad for your mental health.

Jones couldn’t even go to school some days, due to how much the men on these apps manipulated his emotions, allowing him to believe he had a chance for love just to end up only being used for his body.

He said these types of apps used to be used for dating and finding relationships, but it has become a toxic hook up culture in the modern day.


dating apps
Dating Apps Daniel Perese

Netsafe's Sean Lyon says it’s the app’s reasonsibility to monitor and put in place restrictions for underage teens.

He acknowledges that websites and apps with age restrictions can’t stop under 18-year-olds using their services, unless they use a complex age verification system.

The issue for most underage teens on these apps according to Lyon are the people on the other end believing the user is of age and having a mature sexual conversation with them.

He recognizes that there is also the risk of physical harm, if they do decide to meet in person.

The advice he gives parents wanting to know if their kids are on these apps is not to go through their phone.

“When parents have spent time trying to find out what young people are doing, … it damages the trust relationship that young people and parents have with technology.”

He suggests parents have frank, non-judgmental, open conversations about what sort of technology young people are using. Do it from a place of interest and do it before something happens.