Originally published on our Lakelands Leader advice column the Laudable Life

Q: I found my twenty-something son using a Tinder app on his phone?  Should I be worried?  Isn’t that a hook-up site?  He says “No” and that I “don’t understand.”  Can you enlighten me?

A: Dear Tinder Parent, Tinder is a social media app for meeting people.  Users view profiles of people in their area.  You swipe right on a person’s profile to indicate liking him or her and you swipe left if you don’t.  Let’s say you swipe right and that same person also swipes right on your profile.  Then, a chat room instantly opens between you and that person.

Tinder can serve as a safe way to initiate a conversation with a potential boyfriend or girlfriend if it is used appropriately.  If you think about, it is not very different from seeing someone in a bar who appeals to you and walking up to talk to them; except with Tinder the possibility or rejection is significantly reduced.  Just imagine how appealing that might be for your son.  Approaching people to start a conservation cold can be very intimidating, but just like meeting a stranger in a bar, users need to use common sense precautions.  Hopefully you have already begun an ongoing conversation with him long ago about safe interactions with people in the dating world (safe sex, don’t lend your credit card to a dating partner, be careful going to a stranger’s home, etc).  If so he should be applying that wisdom to his use of any dating app as he would in any other mode of meeting people.  Yes, like with bars, many people are using Tinder as a platform for casual sex.  And again, whether it be Tinder, or bars, or a friend of a friend’s party, your son will be making decisions about casual sex verses long-term relationships.  We recommend you focus on those big picture conversations and not fret too much about this specific app.  Good luck!