Online Dating and the Law: How to Safely Use Dating Apps

Dating has radically evolved in the past decade. Before, you relied on your peers, family, and connections to meet people. You can ask a friend to set you up with someone they know – someone you’re interested in.

Now, technology has widened your horizon when it comes to dating. You have access to plenty of apps and online platforms that cater to those who are actively pursuing love and companionship. There are also exclusive matchmaking services available for people who are looking for specific traits and qualities in their potential partners.

Between online dating and matchmaking services, the former has grown more popular in recent years. The apps are convenient, accessible, and easy to use. Plus, most of these platforms don’t have identification requirements, giving you anonymity.

Although being anonymous helps protect your identity, it can also cause problems. You run the risk of violating laws related to sexual assault, preying on minors, cyber harassment, and even prostitution.

Follow these steps to protect yourself from incriminating activities while using online dating apps.

1. Always ask for their age

Ask the other person’s age first before striking up a conversation with them. Be upfront with your age as well. If they say that they’re under 18, break off contact immediately.

Don’t entertain them even if they’re already nearing their 18th birthday. Otherwise, you can be accused of child grooming, which is the act of purposely establishing an emotional connection with a minor to make them more susceptible to abuse.

Don’t be tempted to flirt with a minor. Even if you don’t commit any sexual acts, this can be taken as an attempt at solicitation. Solicitation of a minor is a serious crime in many states. The penalty varies per state, but you can be facing jail time, a fine of around $5,000, and registration as a child sex offender.

You can also choose online dating sites that have age requirements to protect yourself from being accused of preying on minors.

man texting

2. Understand that no means no

Consent is important. There’s nothing impressive about pursuing someone who has already turned you down. Relentlessly messaging someone even after they’ve told you no is not only creepy, it can also be grounds for cyberstalking. You can be facing fines, jail time, and a restricting order if you’re convicted.

If the other person isn’t interested, respectfully end your communication with them and move on. You don’t want to make someone feel uncomfortable, especially when you’re a stranger to them.

3. Avoid sexting at all costs

Sexting, or sending sexually explicit photos and videos, is common in online dating. If you’re an adult, sexting puts you at risk of sending graphic images to a minor, especially if you have no way of confirming their age. As long as you aren’t sure of their age, don’t engage in sexting.

Receiving sexually explicit images from a minor also has consequences. You can be charged with child pornography and may even be required to register as a sex offender.

If you’re eager to engage in sexting, make sure you’ve met the recipient in person already and have gone out on a couple of dates before doing so.

The best way to legally protect yourself when online dating is to cover all your bases. Stick with apps or platforms that enforce age requirements to be sure you’re not dealing with minors. Always respect the other person’s boundaries to avoid making them feel uncomfortable.

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