Julen, 22, downloaded the dating apps Grindr and Bender when he was 15. In a year, he had sex with 20 or 30 older boys through these dating applications. "I liked up to 25 or 27 if they had a good body. When they asked me if I was younger, I usually lied, "he says. And it's not the only one. This newspaper has contacted several young people who have easily eluded the age controls of dating applications for over 18 years as Tinder or Grindr.
The Civil Guard is investigating in Spain several cases of crimes against minors who use these apps. For example, through Instagram detected a possible case of sexual abuse of a man, also a user of Grindr, in contact with minors. "Also a minor has been denounced by someone from his school for offering services in Grindr in exchange for money", explains to EL PAÍS the person in charge of the Women-Minor Team (EMUME) of the Civil Guard, Daniel Moreno Gómez, who has not specified the exact number of open investigations. On the other hand, the National Police affirms that it has not faced any case of this type.
In Spain, the reform of the Criminal Code of 2015 raised the age of sexual consent from 13 to 16 years old. If an adult has sexual relations with a minor who has not yet turned 16, even if they are consented, the adult may be sentenced for "abuses" to a penalty of between two and six years in prison (up to 12 years if there is vaginal penetration) , anal or oral).
"It's amazing the one of younger kids that there is nowadays in Grindr. Many at first tell you that they are 18 or 19 years old and before they meet they tell you that they are 15. They lie because they want to stay with older uncles and if they say their age first, nobody stays with them, "says Alejandro, a 23-year-old years that he has more than six using Grindr. For him, "the only dangerous thing that there are minors in these apps is that the older people take advantage of them ":" With 15 or 16 years you have an innocence that with 23 you do not have. I have been talking to people up to 70 years old who are looking for young people. "
"Bad experiences using these applications we all have," says Julen. Although it emphasizes not to have undergone any type of abuse, it recognizes to have maintained sexual relations "by commitment": "Uncomfortable powders before, during and after throwing them yes I have had". "When you're so young sometimes you do not dare to tell the other person to stop if, for example, he likes whipping but not you and he's hurting you," he explains. But, over time, "you empower yourself and say no".
Some of these apps have also had to face criticism for the discrimination of some users. When someone writes "neither rice nor chocolate" on their Grindr profile, in reality, it is a code with which he makes it clear that he will not interact with Asians or with blacks. For Alejandro, the forms of some users leave much to be desired. Remember how a while ago he sent a picture of him "to a handsome boy". He got an "ugly" answer and, in addition, the boy blocked him. "Being told to be ugly at 14 years old can affect you because you are worried about your physique." In this type of applications, "the kids go a lot": "The first thing they ask you is if you are active or passive and there are even people who ask you directly for the chat if you could do it bareback".
The position of Tinder and Grindr
When downloading applications such as Tinder or Grindr, it is only necessary to enter a date of birth that certifies that you are of legal age. This newspaper has contacted both companies to know what measures they are taking to verify that the date entered is true and to prevent minors from evading age controls. Tinder, that increased the old entry for users from 13 to 18 years old in 2016, has ruled out making statements about it. A spokesperson for the company told him The Guardian that the platform uses "a network of tools for moderation and revision of cutting-edge automated and manual, systems and processes to prevent, monitor and eliminate minors and other inappropriate behaviors of the application": "We do not want minors in Tinder".
Grindr has stated that she is worried about any presence of minors in the application and has encouraged users to report any account belonging to minors. "Our team is constantly working to improve our digital and human detection tools to prevent and eliminate the inappropriate use of minors by our application," the company said in a statement, which does not clarify what specific measures it is taking to prevent the minors use the application.
These two dating applications are the most popular. But there are dozens of them in the market. Since Adopt an uncle, that uses more filters and increases the chances of success, to OKCupid, who searches for psychological affinity or Lovoo, that has an agile and precise locator. There are also Wapo, for gays and bisexuals, and Wapa, for lesbians and bisexuals.
This last application is what Alba normally uses (fictitious name). He is 19 years old and has also tried Badoo and Tinder. "I have used these apps since I was 14 years old and I have stayed with girls and boys in public places, houses and even cars". She, unlike Julen, states that she has never felt uncomfortable and has always been aware of the implications of what she did. "I knew with the people that were left and I have not done anything that I did not want," he explains over the phone while on one of his appointments. He has stayed with a 35-year-old girl who disagrees and joins the conversation: "I do not see it the same. There are many people hanging. Also, before it was much more complicated to send your photos, since not everyone had cameras. Today, minors send photos committed lightly without really knowing to whom they are being sent, "he concludes.
The Government of the United Kingdom has asked Tinder and Grindr what measures they take to guarantee the safety of the children and to make sure that they are of legal age. The Secretary of State of the United Kingdom for Digital Media, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright, has assured in a press release Which collects The Guardian that "if these measures do not seem sufficient, he will take measures in this regard".
British police have investigated more than 30 cases of child rape since 2015 in which the victims contacted their aggressor through these apps, according to the same newspaper. Further, The Sunday Times reports that there have been another 60 cases of sexual crimes against minors such as grooming, kidnapping and violent sexual assault. The smallest victim was eight years old.