Dating apps pose risk to teenagers, expert says

Dating apps pose risk to teenagers, expert says

In the age of technology with literally everything at your fingertips, meeting people online has never been more popular but it also comes with risks, according to Jonathan D’Angelo, a University of Wisconsin-Madison communication technology researcher.

“It’s very easy for individuals to lie online and adults can be a target of this deception. Minors may be a target who are more vulnerable to this type of deception,” D’Angelo said.

Twice in the last week in separate incidents teenage girls have fallen prey to dating and chat sites.

Last week a Fort Atkinson man was arrested on several felony charges after being accused of abducting a Michigan teenager with the intention of sex, after meeting her on the instant messaging app, KIK. In Janesville, a 25-year-old man is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl . The two met on the dating app Plenty of Fish.

“You have to monitor what your kids are utilizing. Especially in older adolescents as they see friends using apps or communicating online it’s important for friends just to be knowledgeable about both what is out there and how kids are using it,” D’Angelo said.

According to a 2105 Pew Research Center study, 92 percent of teenagers go online mostly on their phones. The study also shows at least 8 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 who have been in a relationship used social media as a dating tool.

D’Angelo said anonymity and the lack of urgency to respond immediately can make it easy for those on the other side of the screen to deceive you.

“You can take your time to develop your profile. If you get a message you can careful construct your message. This is great for truthful daters but for those who are deceiving it also gives them a little bit of time to be more calculated,” he said.

He suggests teaching kids how to properly use the internet and talk about dangers including the chance of deception when interacting with people you don’t know online.

“We don’t teach that a lot in schools just yet so it’s important for parents to educate students or kids of how the internet works, what’s out there because it is something that is not necessarily intuitive online use,” D’Angelo said.