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GRINDR, BLENDR ... The Danger of 'Hook-Up' Apps

These apps may be the hippest in social networking, but let's be honest -- BLENDR & GRINDER is really a Cuisinart of Booty Call. And, under-aged kids are using it.

By Lisa Barr

I'm an optimist, a Cup Half-Full person. There are, however, a few things I really hate -- and topping my list are pedophiles/predators. Nowhere are they more prevalent but online, on apps, in chat rooms, and I'm learning ... on blogs (but that's another story).

For those who have been following my blogs these past six months, you know two things about me: If something is dangerous or hurtful to kids -- I will expose it. If something hurts our relationships -- you will find it here on this blog in the raw, no holding back.

The other day, a Mom contacted me, and proceeded to tell me a story about how her gay cousin, who is in his late 40s, was visiting her from out of town, and they were having dinner. She noticed he was staring at various pics on his phone  -- on an app she had never seen before called Grindr (yeah, no "e"). The gist of it ... it is a gay "meet" site.  You send photos of yourself with a description and the app tells you how close in proximity another person who is "of interest" is to you  ... ie. Steve X is 480 feet away ... and if you're IN and he's IN a connection will be made  -- ideal for a coffee or a quickie. This is the "gay, bi, or curious"  site -- its heterosexual counterpart is called Blendr (note,  no "e" ).

Blendr/Grindr -- what we have here, my friends, is a Cuisinart of Booty Call.

Now here's the story ... the Mom noticed a few familiar married men advertising themselves on Grindr, and while that was definitely fodder for conversation, what stopped her in her tracks was when she noticed two BOYS on there as well -- a 14 and a 15 year old masquerading as 18 year olds -- the mandated age for the site. She knew their parents, she knew the boys, she knew they were lying -- and she was scared for them. They were clearly living out their "secret" on the edge of potential danger.

What to do?

She called a close friend of one of the boy's Moms and told her what she had seen -- that Mom alerted the boy's parents who found out the hard way that their eighth grade son was soliciting male "friendships."

These two boys are too young to truly comprehend the dangers of being picked up -- and I wondered how many more under-aged boys there are on Grindr -- and what protection, if any, is Out There.

I called a local detective in my town, who is very active with teaching kids -- particularly middle-schoolers -- about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

"Is this legal?" I asked Marci Landy, a detective with the Deerfield Police Department. "And if so, how do we protect our kids?"

Detective Landy explained that if the boys are saying they are 18 on the site, and someone picks them up believing they are 18 -- it is very difficult to prosecute if the boys are misrepresenting themselves.

"It is sad and unfortunate," Landy said. "Facebook subscribers, for example, need to be 12 years old -- do you know how many sixth graders who are NOT 12 are on Facebook? We would need a national force to go after all of them. And in this case, if the kids are lying about their age, there is nothing we can do. If, however, a man knowingly picks up a youngster -- and we can prove it -- then that's a different story. For example if the boy says to the solicitor, 'I can't meet you because I have to take my finals or I have a track meet after school' -- alluding to the fact that he is only in junior high or high school -- that is indeed grounds for police intervention."

I then contacted Jordy Shulman, 17, a high-school senior who co-wrote the "Mom, I'm Gay" article (GIRLilla Warfare, September 12) and asked him a slew of questions: Did he know about Grindr (YES) , and how do we protect our teenagers? 

Here's Jordy's take on GRINDR:

"Over the past couple of years, online dating and flirting has become immensely popular. Why waste time going out and meeting people, when you can just see someone you like online and 'message' them?  For many people, this method is convenient and an easy way to meet others. But for some, this method can come off as particularly 'sketchy' and unsafe.

Grindr, an app for mobile devices, is designed for gay men to meet other gay men within your area. When on Grindr, the first thing you see are rows of pictures with names under them. A lot of these pictures range from a normal-looking teen, smiling, to a shirtless 50-year old.

But the real question is if the person displayed in the picture is actually that person in reality. Whether the 18-year-old named “John” is actually a 14-year-old named “Jake”.

It is the unknown that can be extremely scary.

This, however, is not to say that Grindr is not used by men for its original purpose.  A lot of single gay men out there use this app to meet other gay men, in hopes to meet them in real life and date. One could say that Grindr is an equivalent to a website like eHarmony.com, or Match.com, just with less restrictions and policies.

About a year ago, I thought that it would be a cool idea to see what this app was all about.  I had never been exposed to a strictly gay social networking site before, and I felt that it would be interesting to see what it was like.  I thought that it could possibly benefit me as a young gay teen.

I was wrong.

Right from the beginning, I knew that this app was not safe by any means.  There were times when men much older than me would send me a message, and it made me feel uncomfortable -- it was not what I thought it was going to be.

To me, Grindr came off as extremely offensive and hurtful, because of how people only message you from knowing what you look like. If you don’t fit into someone else’s 'criteria' then you’re worth nothing to them. This led me to learn that Grindr was also primarily used for people wanting to 'hook up' which I also felt was extremely risky.

People on Grindr lie about their age -- it’s that simple. A gay teen who believes that he is meeting up with a fellow teen, could very well be meeting up with a man who is much older.  I know that if my parents found out I was using this, they would be extremely worried.

I deleted my account a couple of days after making one.

Being a closeted gay teen can be extremely difficult. You feel closed in, with nothing to rely on, and you feel that no one understands you.  You want so badly to be accepted, and for people to think of you as any other person. You wish that dating would be as easy as any straight guy dating a girl, but it is far from it. Teens are turning to apps like Grindr because they feel that it is the only way for them to be open within a community.

If I were to give a piece of advice to a struggling teen, I would say that something like Grindr would only put you in a position of possibly engaging in risky and inappropriate behavior.

Grindr can be a place that is very unsafe, and isn’t something that would make you feel better about yourself.  I know how hard it is -- I’ve been there.  But closeted gay teens need to know that things will get better, without the help of apps such as Grindr.  In fact, you’re better off without it. Focus on school. Focus on your friends. Focus on your passions. Gay or straight, social networking sites that are geared towards sexual encounters are dangerous for teens of any age or any orientation."

For those parents who may be looking for a way to help but not wanting in any way to hurt a "closeted" gay teen -- Detective Landy had a great suggestion that will provide a student with an avenue of confidentiality: Call the school counselor.

"These counselors must maintain confidentiality," Landy explains. "The counselor can meet with the teenager privately and explain why these sites can lead him or her down the wrong path. The counselor will also explain the repercussions of solicitation and predators -- without having anyone reveal a secret."

Parents: Underaged means inexperienced and unable to truly recognize a predator. If you have the ability to check out your kid's cell phone -- do it. Keep an eye out for Grindr, Blendr -- and other cyber Eye Candy apps which promise meeting not The One ... but the One Right Now.

I know this all sounds a bit alarmist -- like Big Brother and Neighborhood Watch -- but as parents of teenagers -- we really do need each other. It does take a village to raise a kid.

Lisa Barr is the editor of GIRLilla Warfare: A Mom's Guide to Surviving the Suburban Jungle (www.girlillawarfar.com), and author of "Fugitive Colors" (historical suspense, available on Amazon).

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Stevie Janowski December 11, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Bree, in regard to your comment, this video made me think of what you said http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU1LOaV68kc also he was about as good as a leader as lisa barr is a writer!
Stevie Janowski December 12, 2012 at 07:35 AM
Let the record show bree has had 4-6 comments taken down
Kenny Powers December 12, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Stevie, READ THE ARTICLE YOU MORON. I hope Kenny beats your ass. I think it's very telling that you identify with Stevie Janowski.
Kenny Powers December 12, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Walter, I'm curious as to what you do for a living. You seem to spend most of your time prowling for stories to comment on. Do you actually read the stories or just the headlines?
Walter White December 12, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I'm in the entertainment business. You?
Brian L. December 12, 2012 at 05:23 PM
How exciting. We now get two characters from the same show.
Susan Shaw December 12, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Hi Lisa, I have read your articles for a while now, and have officially lost faith in you. I think I speak for a lot of patch users when I say this, I dont want to hear about "gay cousins or hookup apps" I would like you to post something appropriate and not about gays. I find this article of yours to be your worst, and utterly worthless. Who gained anything from this? Not me. Please post something more patch appropriate and practical for the everyday patch user, or dont summit these at all.
Stevie Janowski December 12, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Preaching to the choir
Chris Antonson December 12, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Lisa, After reading this article I have lost complete faith in all of your writing. Week after week it gets worse and worse. Put something out that people actually want to hear about. And for the record it's defiantly not gay apps... You have crossed the line on this one.
Brian L. December 12, 2012 at 06:26 PM
So I know a lot of commenters here have made a "sport" out of commenting on Lisa's blog posts, but did everyone really only take from this that it is just about how to hook up for a gay relationship? It's about the harm that these types of apps are causing by facilitating sexual predators. On top of that, about teens who may be gay and feel that this is the only way they can reach out to someone like them. It also seems like most of the readers who are commenting (assuming you are all different people) are under the impression that they are forced to read her blog. When you post that you read it week to week and are continually disappointed by the subject, then why do you keep reading it? Is it only to barrage the message board with comments not really pertaining to the content of the article? It's not hard to not hear about an article you don't like. Simply don't click the link. For me, it did provide some information that i was not aware of. As my son grows older, apps and sites like those Lisa mentions will only proliferate and gain momentum. I need to watch for people who would use sites like that to take advantage of him in any way, shape, or form.
Walter White December 12, 2012 at 06:40 PM
If you need someone to tell you that you should keep your kids away from sexual predators you need to give them over to DCFS immediately. The only reason for her stupid blog posts is to promote her website and book (available on Amazon!!).
Stevie Janowski December 12, 2012 at 06:42 PM
No one likes your comments Brian, NO ONE
Stevie Janowski December 12, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Sorry to hear your son is gay as well
Stevie Janowski December 12, 2012 at 06:43 PM
OMG LISA PLEASE COMMENT A LINK TO YOUR BOOK!!! MUST READ!!!
Brian L. December 12, 2012 at 06:44 PM
That's clearly what I meant that WW. I am aware that predators exist and that my son shouldn't chum up with them, but being married and not on the lookout for random sexual encounters (gay or straight), I was unaware that these specific sites existed, which would make this article informative to me.
Gary December 12, 2012 at 06:46 PM
I don't understand the hate-fest going on here. The article definitely has content of interest for the community and all the punctuation and sentence structure is correct... so why all the hate? What other possible reason could justify the nasty comments? I wonder. Hmmmm.
Brian L. December 12, 2012 at 06:56 PM
No one has to like them. This isn't a social site and I'm not here to gain you as a friend. I figured some sort of anti gay comment would be coming from one of you as well. There is no need to apologies. I mean, he's only 1, so i really have no clue what his sexual preference may be. Whoever he ends up liking, good for him...as long as they aren't 20 years his elder.
Stevie Janowski December 12, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Your son is ONE and your trying to justify your interest in this article by staying up to date on predator APPS that are for CELL PHONES the ADULTS use. Give me a break brain, you are a joke.
Stevie Janowski December 12, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Also you speak of 20 years older, I took a glance at Lisa's blog she has posts from women sleeping with guys 15 years+ younger then her. GROSS
Brian L. December 12, 2012 at 07:15 PM
If you don't like my comments, why are you getting so worked up? He will eventually be older and as technology progresses, apps like these will only evolve and grow. How on earth would knowing about them now be a bad thing? You told me if I wasn't aware, DCFS should take my son. So if I read an article that makes me more aware, that just makes me a joke? Got it. I'll work on my omniscience.
Stevie Janowski December 12, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Kenny go do a line of coke
Stevie Janowski December 12, 2012 at 07:43 PM
"You told me if I wasn't aware, DCFS should take my son" never said that guy, you should bring that up with walter white
Brian L. December 12, 2012 at 07:49 PM
My mistake
Stevie Janowski December 13, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Fine, I summited my own blog. Hope it gets posted to Patch!
Walter White December 13, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Next time try paying attention to who said what. Reading is a skill.
tom dressler December 13, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Also, I think Lisa's writing is terrific. I'm still waiting for my chance to get a hold of my teenagers' phones so I can monitor what they're doing. Lisa, how do you keep on top of your kids' "stuff" without breaking their trust?
Lynette Paulson December 13, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I find these articles to be useless and in bad taste.
Walter White December 13, 2012 at 07:28 PM
She should really post more of her serious journalism from her website. A few titles: "Recently divorced? Watch out for married men" "I AM a cougar...and LOVING IT!!" "Happy endings...cheating or not?" Why does Patch just get the boring stuff??
Lisa Barr December 13, 2012 at 10:09 PM
I'm not sure how you got a hold of my email/photo etc. But the comment above is not me. (not to mention all the typos) - Lisa Barr
Lisa Barr December 14, 2012 at 03:46 AM
I am a hacker and have all your information Lisa. Better shut the blog down again. XoXo Lisa

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