not child's play

Queer kids 13 times more likely to have tried dating apps than their straight peers

A new study has found that queer kids, specifically those in the 11-12 age group, are 13 times more likely to have tried out dating apps than their straight counterparts.

This is even though dating apps are aimed at adults and most have an over-17s-only policy.

The author of the study suggests it could be down to the LGBTQ+ youth being desperate to connect with other queer folk. Or being too scared to try and date anyone at their school.

The study was led by Dr. Jason Nagata, an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California in San Francisco.

The researchers analyzed data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study. This is the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States. They say there have been previous studios into older adolescents using dating apps. However, they wanted to see if pre-teens also explored online dating.

They found that a small number, just 0.4%, of just over 10,000 of 11-12-year-olds in the study did so. That compares to between 8-19% of older adolescents.

Of that 0.4%, boys were three times more likely than girls to say they’d tried online dating apps. This matches with the fact that men more generally go on to be greater users of dating apps. Boys are also likely to spend around 45 minutes longer online each day than girls of a similar age.

The study noted that LGBTQ+ youth were 13 times more likely to say they had opened up a dating app.

“Lesbian, gay, or bisexual adolescents, including preteens, may have limited romantic partner options in their schools, where they may also face discrimination, bullying, and stigma because of their sexual orientation,” said Nagata in a press statement.

“Dating apps may allow adolescents to easily identify other LGB users in close geographic proximity, whereas it may be more difficult to determine a potential partner’s sexual orientation in real life.”

Risk to youth

However, using dating apps comes with risk, particularly so for minors. They may feel pressured to engage in inappropriate, sexual conversations or asked to share indecent images. Older users may also unknowingly unlock sexual images, believing they’re talking to another adult.

Although the number of pre-teens experimenting with dating apps is small, the numbers steadily rise during adolescence. Nagata believes teachers and parents need to be aware that some 11-12-year-olds are downloading dating apps. He believes it’s something they need to talk about with young people.

“Although online media can have benefits such as connection and socialization for LGB adolescents, parents and media literacy programs should provide guidance to mitigate risks from online dating such as cyberbullying, grooming, exploitation, privacy violations, and the exchanging of inappropriate content,” Nagata says.

“Parents should talk to their adolescents about media usage, including online dating, and develop rules through a family media use plan.”

Grindr for queer youth

This is not the first time the topic of kids potentially using Grindr has come up. A couple of years ago, Elon Musk falsely claimed that Twitter’s ex-head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, supported the sexualization of children.

To back up his assertion, Musk posted an excerpt from Yoth’s 2016 PhD thesis in which Yoth discussed the dangers of kids using dating apps. Yoth suggested that to minimize the risk of youth venturing onto apps such as Grindr, the gay hookup app should take steps to make safe spaces on its platform for younger users.

According to Musk, this concept risked sexualizing children. He might want to check out Nagata’s research. It sounds like lots of kids are trying out adult apps anyway (and let’s not even begin to talk about how easy it is for anyone to see adult content on X).

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