03/07/2023 Updated on  03/12/2024|Responsible Business|Parenting in a Digital World

What’s the story with teen dating apps? Let this Gen Z tell you.

By: Shelly Hed

Teens are using social media, group chats, multimedia gaming and, yes, teen dating apps. Our Gen Z expert shares her tips on how to talk with your teen about using the apps safely.

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Teen Dating App

Oh, wow, there’s a dating app icon on your teen’s phone screen? Does this mean they’re looking for a romantic partner? Not necessarily.

Sure, some teens use dating apps for dating. Other teens use dating apps alongside their friends as a group bonding activity. Swiping left or right can be fun with friends and is a great excuse to vet any potential partners with a committee of well-meaning pals.

My sister and I are in another group. We use social media platforms to build community beyond the people we already know. In other words, we go online to find friends—and we’re not alone. According to various reports, more young people are using social media and dating apps just to find friends. If we’re lucky and careful, sometimes we even meet our online friends in real life.

Bottom line: Parents should know that dating today looks a lot different from the way it used to. In fact, teenage dating today has moved almost entirely online and involves a combination of social media and teen dating apps.

How teens use social media to date

Here are the main social media apps teens use, how social media can be used to date online, and some ways your teens can practice internet safety.


When your teen is looking through someone’s Instagram account, they might look for how many connections they have in common to help them decide if it’s someone they’d like to date.

  • Safe strategies: Talk with your teen about some easy ways to minimize unwanted attention, including setting their profile to private, posting Stories to “close friends” rather than posting them publicly, and archiving photos they don’t want on their public profile (or deleting them altogether). Also, filtering and turning off comments is easy to do, and blocking or reporting someone who keeps sending your teen unwanted private messages takes only a few seconds.


TikTok has become a popular hub for finding new friends. It’s important to note, though, that your teen is not limited to only seeing posts from accounts they follow.

  • Safe strategies: TikTok’s privacy features are like Instagram’s and can be accessed through settings. Many privacy features are turned on automatically, too. So look through these features with your teen and make sure the appropriate privacy settings are in place.


Snapchat’s main appeal for teens is that Snaps (messages) disappear after viewing.

  • Safe strategies: Talk with your teen regularly about what they’re Snapping with friends. Specifically talk together about what’s appropriate to share. Teens engaging in dangerous digital behavior such as taking or receiving inappropriate photos might think this feature can help keep those images from ever getting out. But beware: Snaps can be screenshotted, so privacy is never guaranteed.


Discord is a group chat application and website initially created for gamers. Now there are servers for people interested in pretty much anything. It’s the de facto application for teen group chats online. I’ve met most of my internet best friends on Discord servers. It’s also a fun alternative to texting group chats for people you know in real life.

  • Safe strategies: Some server channels are restricted to ages 18 and up. It’s up to the channel manager to set restrictions and verify age. So it’s important to talk with your teen about the group chats they’re using and make sure they’re age appropriate.

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games, or MMORPGs

What better way is there to meet someone who shares your interests than while doing something you like? Chatting features in MMORPGs and real-time strategy games allow your teen to chat with people who live all around the world and make lasting connections.

  • Safe strategies: While your teen might find and make new friends in these games, make sure they’re mostly playing with friends they know in real life. Talk regularly with them about the friends they’re playing with and how they know them. It’s also important to make sure they don’t share any personal information in a private chat with someone they don’t know.

‘More Young People Use Social Media And Dating Apps Just To Find Friends.’ By Shelly Hed, Gen Z Podcaster And Writer | Teen Dating App

Dangers of teen dating apps

Like anything else your teen does on the internet, online dating leaves a digital footprint. Plus, it potentially leaves your teen vulnerable to harassment or bullying. Even if you’ve already talked with your kids about how to handle these situations, consider revisiting those conversations and regularly discussing how to use teen dating apps safely.

Also, keep in mind that no matter how rigorous the screening and oversight are on teen dating apps, your kids still might be exposed to inappropriate content or behavior.

One of the biggest risks they might face is meeting someone in person that they have only known 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 offscreen, talk to them about meeting the person in a public place with a friend or trusted adult.

Sadly, teen dating apps and online social platforms are fertile ground for catfishing and predators who groom victims and later exploit them. Warn your teens against sending explicit photos to anyone—and warn them against requesting them, too. If the sender is under 18, or if they send photos of someone who’s underage, your child could end up in legal trouble.

4 questions to discuss about teen dating apps

Remind your teen they don’t have to talk to people who make them feel uncomfortable, and they can block and report them. Beyond that, asking these four questions can help keep your teen safe.

  1. Who are your teens talking to?
    It’s easy to set up a fake account on social media or on a teen dating app to hide your age or masquerade as someone else. A teen might have seen a person’s photo, but that photo could be heavily filtered. Has your teen spoken to the person over a voice call, or seen them through a video chat? Is it someone they’re willing to have you talk to before they meet up in person? Talk with your teen about your rules and requests that can keep them safe.

  2. What are they talking about?
    Maintain an open dialogue with your teen about what people are talking to them about on a teen dating app. When teens aren’t in the same space as their parents, it’s much easier to talk without holding back.

  3. What are they posting?
    The more details your teen posts online about their private life, the easier it is for someone to use that information to manipulate them. Do they post their age in their bio? Predators look for kids. Do they drop information about their life in their posts—listing location, school or home address, family dynamics, real names? Strangers can use that information to trick your teen into thinking they’re not really a stranger at all.

  4. What photos are appropriate?
    What do they think is appropriate to post on teen dating apps? What’s inappropriate? What kind of responses do people have to their photos? Are people being cruel or honestly supportive? Remind your teens that digital footprints are real, and nothing they post online is ever really gone. Also ask your teen if they ever wonder if their friend’s photos are edited. Remind your teen that they have control over what they see online, and it’s okay to unfollow people or delete their comments if they make them feel bad about themselves.

Don’t freak out

Teen dating apps are a popular way for teenagers to meet, socialize and, of course, date. However, it’s natural for parents to be apprehensive about teen dating apps if you’re unfamiliar with them, especially since dating apps can expose your teen to inappropriate content, catfishing and predatory behavior. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself about the various sites and apps and their potential risks, and to familiarize yourself with their safety parameters so you can help your teen use these platforms safely.

Verizon Smart Family can help you set controls, monitor your teen’s activity and set usage limits. Then keep the conversation going about dating safely online.

Block inappropriate dating apps with Verizon Smart Family.

About the author:

Shelly Hed is a screenwriter, podcast producer, freelance writer and former radio host. She loves theater and believes life is better with a soundtrack.

The author has been compensated by Verizon for this article.

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