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Stranger Danger on Campus

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Stranger Danger on Campus

Ariana Abtahi, Staff Writer

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As the era of the digital age clashes with the timeless desire to meet new people, dating apps are revolutionizing the social scene for adults, slowly replacing the “met by chance” narrative our parents once knew.

Pali students are far from behind on the online dating trend. These teens are not meeting in their fifth periods or at Football Fest anymore — they are taking it to the net. However, there is one big difference: they are not legal adults, making it a violation  for them to use their app of choice: Tinder.

This age limit was set in place to ensure that those under 18, the legal age of consent in California, will not fall victim to a predator, child luring and other high risk factors. While the idea of adapting adult behavior can be enticing, teenagers meeting up with strangers from the Internet is completely irresponsible and quite frankly, against the law.

According to PureSight, an online website advocating for child online safety, 100% of teenagers who have fallen victim to sexual predators willingly met with them from online. Unfortunately, these victims become statistics, and teens at risk do not grasp the magnitude of the emotional and physical harm that could come from online meetups. In Los Angeles County alone, there are 15,000 registered sexual predators, which leaves the unfortunate chances of meeting one online quite high. This is reason enough to not trust strangers, even those in near the area. With the swift changes social media brings to interaction, the world is not the same as it once was.

Teenagers are not the only one put in danger in these situations. When teenagers, regardless of their age, use Tinder, it leaves unknowing adults under the false pretense they are speaking to someone who can give consent. If caught, an unsuspecting adult can find themselves registering as a sex offender, just because of mere curiosity on the minor’s part. In December 2015, an 18 year-old Cody Hunter Swatling from Michigan was sentenced to 60 days in jail, as well as 3 years of probation for sexting and meeting up with a 15 year-old boy, the latter lying about his age. While most 18 year-olds were celebrating their newfound adulthood, Swatling spent his battling in court.

While some may stray away from Tinder meetups, many impressionable minors are put in real danger when they pursue them. So, the question remains: does Pali allow this current trend to persist? Where is the fine line between protecting students and impeding on privacy crossed?

Pali admin Mystic Thompson believes the app should not be used on campus, as it is “not appropriate,” and should at least be blocked from Pali wifi, if not already.

“I am all for students having their rights to do things, but I think that Tinder is so dangerous, because it is not a young person’s social media… you might get connected to some predator.”  Thompson advocates for students to have freedom in their social choices. “There’s definitely a big difference in maturity when you become an 18 year old versus a 14 year old, even though technically they’re both still kids,” Thompson says, “there is still so much lack of life experience, and even though you may look like a 30 year old, you don’t have that brain [development].”

Some Pali students say they have used the app to be trendy, noting that they have been using it in a harmless way. It seems that trend overrides all common sense when it comes to the Internet. Just how the dangerous cinnamon challenge and consuming Tide Pods were once “a thing,” so is Tinder: a fad that reaps consequences beyond its worth.

A Pali senior who asked to be identified by the pseudonym Matthew said that after downloading the app he eventually found himself truly “loving” Tinder for online chats because of the random matches. He said other Pali students should be allowed to use the app — as long as they are being “responsible and careful.”

The intersection of a students’ school life and their internet persona is a controversial, ever-fluctuating topic. While students must abide by the rules during school hours, what happens outside campus is up to them.  Every Pali student should have their own privacy without the school being involved, as long as laws made to protect said students are upheld.

Matthew added that he questions why school administrators would even want to play a part in his online life unless “there is a Tinder club at school.” “It’s in our free time, so as long as we’re not going on dates with strangers, and as long as we’re just doing it as a joke, I don’t think it’s harmful,” he said.

As much as Pali’s young adults despise being compared to a child, the fact remains; in the eye of the law, we are children. Enjoying youth as it is and socializing with those who can relate to students is a healthy dynamic. The dumb but endearing first dates full of awkward moments grow from organic chemistry between two people, not a screen. With the newest technology stealing the attention of impressionable youth, it seems like students feel they have to be on every platform. Yet there is a wide variety of ways to meet new people in a safe way, and if students still prefer online interactions, there’s always the beloved Snapchat and Instagram.

There is plenty of time to act like an adult. And that is the beauty of it; kids are allowed to make mistakes. But it only takes one time for that same mistake to shatter someone. Beyond Pali, no students should be on Tinder, or any other 18+ app. That seemingly young and attractive college freshman is never worth the risk of actually speaking to a 60 year-old creep.

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About the Writer
Ariana Abtahi, Staff Writer

Ariana joined Tideline her senior year as an opinion staff writer. Having been an avid follower of Vice since early middle school, Ariana became interested...

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Stranger Danger on Campus