Are you afraid of how apps like Tinder might affect your children's perception of relationships? Read on to find out what you must know and what you can do about the situation.
In this technosexual era, the already difficult task of talking to our children about love, sex and relationships just got harder. The youth of today live in times that provide them with a world of options and instant gratification – a recipe for disaster when it comes to dating. As such, how do we raise children who respect relationships in the age of Tinder?
How have times changed?
The change in the dating scene today is akin to the change in how we work. In the past, there was absolutely no way you could churn out a research project in and hour or two.
You would head to the library, select the necessary books, plough through those books and then write your paper or do your project. In short, it took time, effort and work.
But in today’s world, a simple Google search will link you to the websites that you need. And because even looking through the entire screen’s worth of information takes too much time, you can hit Ctrl+F (search option) to find exactly what you’re looking for within a page. Voila! Job done!
Everything takes place at an accelerated pace – instant gratification. And this leads to a generation that is impatient and unwilling to invest too much of themselves in just about anything.
The youths of today want everything to happen at the snap of a finger and dating is no exception. This means that the time and effort needed to begin and eventually sustain a relationship might just be too much for youths in the age of Tinder.
The first step to raise children who respect relationships is to get them to understand that relationships require time and effort. Parents need to constantly and actively dispel the myth that relationships can work like a last minute project done by Google.
The dangers of Tinder
Parents fear that Tinder and other similar dating applications will lead their children right into someone else’s bed, or into the arms of some psychopath lurking around waiting to prey on an unsuspecting teenager.
A local secondary school counsellor cited the two biggest fears of parents when it comes to Tinder:
Parents are terribly afraid that such apps will lead their children to having casual sex under the pretext of dating and finding relationships. Premarital sex, unprotected sex and of course, confusing sex for love. The hookup culture that pervades this generation is every parent’s nightmare.
The other concern that they have is of course the usual dangers of their children meeting strangers that they get to know from the Internet.
The good news is that the statistics of youths landing themselves in trouble by meeting strangers from the Internet isn’t alarming. It’s actually a really small number of them that do such things, but as always, the media is guilty of fearmongering by extensively covering and sensationalising such stories.
Schools are also doing their best by constantly educating students about the many dangers that lurk on the Internet. The counsellor remarked,
To be really honest, our kids are quite scared to just go out and meet a stranger. Most of them wouldn’t, it’s usually those who are from troubled backgrounds or broken families who are more susceptible to such dangers.
But of course that doesn’t mean you take it for granted. Parents must do their part to ensure that they know their children’s whereabouts and must closely monitor who their children frequently interact with.
The other good news is that contrary to popular belief, a vast majority of youths, not only in Singapore but also even in other parts of the world, do not actually enjoy the culture of hooking up for casual sex. And that means that it’s not impossible to raise children who respect relationships in this day and age!
Harvard studies show that many young people get on these apps with the ultimate goal of finding a long-term, stable relationship, . And those who subscribe to the hookup culture usually do it as a result of peer pressure, or wanting to appear cool. They do not enjoy the hookup culture and feel regret and unhappiness deep within themselves.
So the takeaway here is that a vast majority of the youths today are looking for love albeit in the wrong places (such as Tinder) with the wrong definitions (confusing sex for love).
Sex in place of love
A great cause for concern in this generation is that almost everything that our youths view is sexualised. The image of love is toxic, as it has become all about sex. Popular culture and the media have taught the youth of today to perceive their self-worth, desirability, attractiveness and popularity through the lens of sex.
This leads them to the hookup culture. Even if it does not happen when they are still in secondary school, when they start their tertiary education, sex becomes a trophy. And apps like Tinder are convenient tools to aid them in finding partners for sex.
As awkward and uncomfortable as this topic might be for parents, it is of paramount importance that they address this in order to raise children who respect relationships!
The inherent problem with this generation is nomophobia – the phobia of being without a mobile device. Children and youths prefer a conversation over What’s App to one in person and a Tweet to a text.
The school counsellor observed,
I think that apart from the immediate dangers of Tinder, we should be more concerned about the long-term effects of such apps. You see, for kids these days, mobile dating is not so much a means to an end, or a tool to get them to something. No. It is the end in itself, the thrill lies in just being on Tinder and finding people to hook up with rather than actually hooking up.
You might think this is good news. I mean yes it is, considering that the likeliness of your child actually meeting someone from Tinder is not as high as you had expected, but if our children feel more comfortable communicating with virtual friends than having real conversations with the people around them, that signals a huge problem. It has potentially devastating effects on relationships in the long-term.
How do we raise children who respect relationships if they don’t even want to have face-to-face communication?
1. Disconnect to connect
The first rule that you should set in your household is that there should be a mobile or gadget free time when everyone gets together to simply enjoy each other’s company.
Do not allow phones at the dinner table or in the living room when you are lazing around and catching up with each other. Talk about your day, talk about your problems or anything under the sun, just talk.
This is a crucial step in raising children who respect relationships. Children need to understand that respecting relationships, not only romantic, but also any relationship, is having heart to heart conversations and fully being present. That means undivided attention, not conversing with someone while scrolling through your social media news feed.
2. Make yourself approachable
In order to raise children who respect relationships, you have to educate them about relationships. This means that at some point, you and your children need to have comfortable conversations about love and sex. Yes, you read that right, sex.
If you shut them out and make the entire conversation about love and sex taboo, you are setting them up to explore and find out in their own ways. Asian parents often dismiss the dating topic altogether, and make it seem forbidden. But you can’t be in denial forever – your child is going to get out there and date sooner or later. And in this day and age, it’s likely to be sooner.
Remember, the forbidden fruit tastes sweeter. If you keep forbidding it, you are further igniting their curiosity. Instead, have a positive outlook and educate them about love and sex.
You also have to talk about sexuality and a positive body image. I’m sure you much rather your children look to you, than a stranger for a affirmation about how they feel about themselves.
3. Sexuality education in schools
Most parents are aware that schools have a sexuality education program. Now, before you go up in arms, no, schools are not teaching your kids sex tips or advocating promiscuity.
The sexuality education program educates them and puts things into perspectives. Schools are helping you out, by approaching topics that you might find difficult to talk to your children about. So for starters, don’t be one of those parents who opt their children out (this program is not compulsory). Encourage them to attend the lessons and learn.
Trust that the schools have the right knowledge and experience to approach this topic in a tactful manner.
4. Show them that a relationship needs work
You may be married for 20 years, but if you want to raise children who respect relationships, you must demonstrate that in your own relationships. Show them that a relationship needs effort from both parties, on a daily basis.
Especially in the presence of your children, ensure that you and your spouse put work and gadgets aside and communicate. Laugh together and not at each other and make sure your children see that. Do not disrespect each other or put each other down.
Daddies, buy flowers for your wife every now and then and encourage your sons to buy flowers for their mum and sister as well. Explain to them why you buy flowers and make them observe how happy mum is when she comes home to flowers.
Mums, leave a handwritten note for Daddy to wake up to, and leave one in your child’s lunchbox as well. Explain to your children the significance and importance of personal touch and handwritten notes.
These are simple things that you can do to show your children how you respect and cherish your relationships and it can go a long way to raise children who respect relationships.
5. When to stay and when to walk away
If you want to raise children who respect relationships, you must make them understand that you must fix what is broken instead of throwing it away. Impart your crisis management knowledge and show your children how you and your spouse mend your relationship when the going gets tough. Make them understand that no relationship is perfect, and working around the imperfections is part of respecting it.
Having said that, you also must make them understand that at times, respecting a relationship means walking away from it. When you know that remaining in the relationship is damaging for yourself or the other person, walking away might be the best option. It will hurt but it is part and parcel of life.
There you go mums and dads, a guide to raise children who respect relationships in the age of Tinder. Do remember that it is hard, but it is not impossible. And the real danger is not so much in the dating apps but rather in their addiction to technology. So you know very well where to start!