Until now teenagers have been able to communicate on Tinder in a protected area only available to people aged 13 to 17. Tinder uses their Facebook profile to determine their date of birth. Tinder has announced that it is banning teenagers under the age of 18, after it emerged that the dating app was being used to groom children.
However, it has emerged that adults have been posing as teenagers in order to coerce boys and girls under the age of consent into having sexual contact with them.
Earlier this week, 26-year-old police officer Stephen McMillan admitted in court that he had groomed a 15-year-old girl he met on the Tinder.
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He later filmed the girl performing a sex act on him and shared a photo of the underage girl’s naked breasts to three of his friends, causing the girl to become suicidal and take a drug overdose.
A 29-year-old man from Limerick was also arrested last month after allegedly grooming a boy. He was stopped while on his way to meet the boy in a hotel.
“On a platform that has facilitated over 11 billion connections, we have the responsibility of constantly assessing our different user experiences,” a Tinder spokesperson said.
“Consistent with this responsibility, we have decided to discontinue service for under 18 users. We believe this is the best policy moving forward. This change will take effect next week.”
Tinder’s decision to raise the age of users was welcomed by child safety campaigners, including the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
“It was deeply worrying that a dating app allowed children below the age of consent to use their site, which put them at risk of being contacted by much older users,” a spokesperson said.
“However, for this decision to be effective there needs to be robust age verification tools across all platforms so that users cannot falsify their age – otherwise this risks becoming a hollow gesture.”
Earlier this year it was revealed the number of reported crimes involving dating apps has increased more than sevenfold in the past two years .
The reported crimes included rape, grooming and attempted murder.
The figure came from 30 police forces in England and Wales who responded to a Freedom of Information request from the Press Association.
Tinder was mentioned in 277 reports of crimes in 2015 – up from 21 in 2013.
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