Researchers Reveal Alarming Trending Among Preteens Using Online Dating Apps

In Education

Despite online dating apps being intended for adults over 18, a concerning study reveals that preteens are managing to access these platforms. Researchers discovered that children as young as 11 and 12 years old are beginning to explore online dating and relationships.

Preteen boys more likely to use dating apps

The study published in BMC Research Notes examined data from over 10,000 children aged 11 to 12, who are participants in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. This significant long-term research project focuses on brain development and child health across the United States.

Although most preteens do not use dating apps, about 0.4% admitted to doing so, equating to roughly one in 250 underage kids. This raises the question of why some 11 and 12-year-olds are entering the online dating world. Research indicates that boys are nearly three times more likely than girls to use these apps. Possible reasons include boys’ higher screen time during early adolescence and the appeal of exploring romantic relationships online without the risks associated with in-person dating.

Adolescents who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are significantly more likely to use online dating apps compared to heterosexual peers, with a 13-fold increase in usage. According to Jason Nagata, MD, lead author and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California-San Francisco, LGBTQ+ adolescents may face limited romantic options and discrimination in their schools, making dating apps a valuable tool for connecting with others who share their sexual orientation in their vicinity.

LGBTQ+ use dating apps for easier connections

Dating apps utilize GPS technology to connect users who are in close proximity, which can be particularly beneficial for preteens seeking LGBTQ+ companionship in areas with limited community representation.

The study notes that easy accessibility via smartphones or tablets is the primary requirement for using these apps. Despite age restrictions in terms of service, underage individuals can bypass these regulations by falsifying their birthdates. The lack of stringent age verification measures within the apps complicates efforts to prevent underage usage.

Preteen online dating is concerning due to links with future anxiety, depression, unprotected sex, and increased threats and privacy violations.

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