Thousands of teenagers as young as 13, are using controversial dating app Tinder, putting themselves in danger of meeting online sex predators.
The controversial dating app is being used by more Aussie school children than over 35s, sparking concerns about their online safety, The Daily Telegraph reported.
The online dating platform has a separate app for 13-17 year olds, which limits their potential matches to under-18s in a bid to minimise risk of falling victim to sexual predators.
However, police warn children have no way of verifying the real age of a person as profile information, including age and photograph, comes from voluntary information supplied by the user.
Australian cyber-safety expert Susan McLean said teens were using Tinder to “boast about how many people want to hook up with them”.
“Adults have been murdered after a meeting on Tinder — there is no safe way to be on Tinder. This is a geolocation app so you are giving away your precise location,” she said.
“Tinder is full of dodgy people and giving away your location is highly problematic.”
Taskforce Argos detective Inspector Jon Rouse told The Courier Mail pedophiles were regularly caught and prosecuted for using dating apps to “groom and meet children”.
He called on parents to take an increased role in monitoring the apps their children are using.
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Director of security at tech company Nuix Asia-Pacific, and former digital forensic specialist with the NSW Police, Michael Wilkinson agreed dating apps such as Tinder were the “perfect target for people-grooming”.
“It is a trivial process to fake age, fake an account and fake a profile.
“There is no robust age-identification mechanism,” Mr Wilkinson said.
Police warned teenagers, and parents too, of the potential dangers of online dating, at any age.
“Everyone, not just teenagers, should be careful about meeting people they have only ever engaged with online,” Detective Inspector Michael Haddow, manager of the NSW Child Exploitation internet unit, said.
“Our advice to parents is talk to your kids so you know what they are doing and point out that not everyone is honest on these sites."
Australian Radio National director Deb Clay raised concerns about the negative messages dating apps exposed young people to, in their search for who’s hot and who’s not.
“What about the overarching message that it sends to kids that you swipe and it makes a judgment about whether someone is attractive or not?” she told Sunrise.
“Because we know that teachers, they have their work cut out for them. They’re [teaching] these anti-bullying messages [in schools]. It’s just sending out the wrong messages to kids.”