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Did you know that Instagram has become a popular dating app?[10] As Tinder users transition to Instagram, child profiles may be increasingly viewed in a sexualized way by strangers. Unlike traditional dating apps, Instagram doesn’t have the stringent age restrictions. Find out what you need to know if your kids or teens have Instagram. Haven’t implement social media rules yet? Dr. Bennett’s Connected Family Online Course is a MUST have for families with school-age kids.

Instagram partners with Tinder.

Tinder is a dating app that allows users to peruse the profile of a potential hookup or dating partner. Swipe left if you’re not interested and right you are. Mutual right swipes opens opportunity for private messaging.[7]

Instagram, on the other hand, is a social media profile that allows users to share images and create a profile displaying their posts. Users can upload to their story, which lets others see what they are doing without posting to their profile. Stories disappear within 24 hours. Public profiles can be viewed by anyone, not just friends; while users must send a friend request before gaining access to posts on private accounts. Other features include direct messaging and live streaming.

In 2015, Instagram partnered with Tinder in response to users increasingly recognizing its advantages for dating and sex, providing more communication features and access to a larger user population.[20]Linking the two social media platforms allows other Tinder users to view your most recent Instagram posts.[9][11]

Previously Tinder accounts provided only basic information (first name, employment, education level, and bio), only allowing you access to other profiles when both users have swiped right.[13] In contrast, on Instagram users can choose what and how much they share about themselves on their profile, allowing all users to view your profile, unless the account is private.

Tinder profiles now include:

  • user’s location
  • multiple photos
  • city
  • gender
  • age (optional)
  • connection to Instagram profile (optional)
  • top Spotify artists (optional)
  • boomerangs (optional)
  • Tinder Gold (in-app purchase)

Are teens using dating apps?

  • 60% of dating app users are between the ages of 18-24.[32]
  • The largest demographic on Instagram is males between 18-24 years old.[33]
  • US college students are turning to dating apps when bored or in need of a confidence boost.[2]
  • By the year 2040, an estimated 70% of coupleswill meet online.[3]

Dating App Fatigue

Why not just stick with Tinder? Experts posit that the change may be in response to dating app fatigue.[2] Studies have found that 32.9% of Tinder users delete the app within a day of downloading it.[3] Also, other dating apps do not provide the same amount of discretion and mystery as Instagram dating. Instagram allows its users to look for a romantic partner without everyone knowing they are on the market.[8]

Instagram Features that Facilitate Dating

Instagram is one of the main sources of social interactions for young people due to the following intuitive and useful features:

Stories feature (disappear in 24 hours):

  • Allows users to know who views their stories daily[2]
  • Remarkably low-risk ability to engage with a stranger or someone you’ve previously met in a seemingly spontaneous way (manner)[3]
  • Allows control over who can view your stories[4]
  • Offers a place to engage in a new form of casual stalking[6]

Direct Message (DM):

  • Messages come from people that the user knows, not a stranger.[6]
  • Provides a false sense of security, especially for kids


  • The shift from viewing only those who have swiped right to seeing all profiles that are not private, provides users with a larger pool of dating options.

Explore Tab:

  • Caters to what you are used to seeing by showing users similar profiles to the ones they are viewing regularly.
  • Makes it easier for strangers to approach strangers.
  • Pops up random profiles that you would be interested in but may not have found on your own.
  • Gives people the opportunity to approach others that wouldn’t have had the opportunity to on other less popular dating apps.


“Sliding into someone’s DM” is the result of Instagram becoming a combo social media/dating app.[6]This refers to reaching out through someone’s direct message when romantically interested. DMs allow the user to hide behind their carefully crafted virtual identity.[9]

Engaging in tindstagramming is becoming more popular. Once-refused users on Tinder now have another shot at potentials on Instagram.[6]Some Tindstagrammers ignore the consensual component that comes with dating in real life.[7]This annoying trend was made easier when the two platforms partnered.


If you like someone, why bother with the complications of real-life flirting? Simply pressing a “like” button on Instagram is equivalent to giving someone a compliment. But it gets pretty subtle. For instance, if you “like” multiple photos it tells that person you are interested in more than friendship. Want to walk up to someone you think is cute and say hello? Now all you have to do is post a comment. The biggest telltale factor of dating on Instagram is when you start DMing. This is where the real flirting starts, and you know that the person is trying to make a move.[4]

Instagram is now our very own advertisement for our dating life.[4] The problem lies in the curation of our personalities online. If we form a connection with someone, they will only know the parts of us that we have shared (or falsely fabricated). So many features, so many options for your perfected virtual identity.

Statistics reveal that tinstagramming is catching on. A 2018 survey of men ages 18-35 found:

  • 14% claimed to use the site to find dates
  • 30% said they use photos from the site to masturbate
  • 7% have paid for nude photos/videos on Instagram
  • 5% have paid for sex on Instagram[20]

Hashtags are used to let others know you are looking to date:

  • #hookup
  • #sex
  • #davido
  • #chefchi
  • #lagos[30]

Instagram Dating Lingo

I have found it shockingly common for people to admit they met their partner on Instagram. Now that Instagram is so highly associated with dating, terms have been coined to describe different things couples do.

Here are new terms every parent should know:

  • Thirst Traps: A thirst trapis either a seductive video or image that’s posted to draw attention from people and receive approval.[4] When dating online, this could be the equivalent of dressing very promiscuously and going out to dance.
  • Sub-gramming (subgram):Subgrammingoccurs when someone posts photos on their profile that they have talked about with the person they are dating. They have not experienced it together, but it is in some way personal to them.[29]
  • Twinstagramming:Twinstagframmingis when both people in a relationship post the same (or practically identical) images. This allows others to insinuate that the two are dating.[29]
  • Orbiting: Orbitingis in a sense the opposite of ghosting. It takes place when, even after communication has ceased, someone continues to watch your stories daily. This is done when someone is still somewhat interested and wants to keep you as an option. However, they choose not to pursue you.[26]

Changes Seen in Real Life Dating

The social acceptance of online dating is a far cry from the negative stigma that used to be associated with it. Flirting also has less pressure associated with it. If you get rejected or ignored, simply try again. So many profiles to choose from…

Since 2017, posting a photo and becoming “Instagram official” has become a common practice for monogamous relationships.[29] Our children’s idea of chivalry is turning into whether their significant other watches their Instagram stories.[24]

It is also changing the way people show their affection in relationships. Users know their relationship is ill-fated when their companion stops viewing their stories.[24]

What to Teach our Kids

A new potential problem with Instagram becoming a dating site is the risk of more sexualized content and predatory people kids may encounter. If your child is at an age that you think dating is appropriate, there is more to teach them than there has been in the past. It’s better to have you teach your children these things than have them turn to outside sources for possibly misguided information.

What you can do:

  • Establish with your child what it looks like when someone cares for you.Make sure they have a firm grasp on reality. Explain to them how they should be treated in a relationship.
  • Help them create and maintain confidence and feelings of self-worth.Help them by facilitating engagement in tasks that are creative and fuel the soul.
  • Offer healthy off-screen hobbies when boredom strikes
  • Remind them you’re there.Avoid soul-killing lectures. Instead engage in fun, mutual conversations and encourage mutual story-telling. Challenge them to form their own opinions and encourage assertiveness. If they speak up to you, they’re more likely to speak up to dangerous others. Most of all, never let them forget that your love for them is unconditional.

How to Keep Your Child Safe on Instagram

  • Set account to private.
  • Use two-factor authentication. This offers more security upon login by requiring a password and your mobile device to access.[16]
  • No last name, identifying information or sexualized photos.
  • Control who views posts. Block anyone that you do not want to see your child’s posts (additional precaution to a private account).
  • Turn off location settings.[15]
  • Require that your child only friends people they know.
  • Report anything that makes you feel that your child’s safety is at risk.
  • Check your child’s account regularly. Remember, kids commonly have more than one Instagram profile (public, private, and finstagram).

Thanks to Sara Doyle for researching and writing this article. If you want to learn more about the dating app that has partnered with Instagram, check out this article on Hookup Apps: The GKIS Sensible Parent’s Guide to Tinder.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,
Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty

Works Cited

[10] NZ Herald. “Lee Suckling: Why Instagram is the new Tinder” Lee Suckling, 2018.

[20] Mirror Techology. “Insta-bang? One in 20 men has PAID for sex on Instagram, survey reveals.” Shivali Best, 2018.

[3] Google. “Instagram is the only dating app we’re all using.” Dane Maximov, 2018.

[2] The Future Laboratory. “With real-life encounters still considered an unreliable means to instigate romance, Instagram makes sense as a more practical tool for match-making.” Holly Friend, 2018.

[32] Recode “Tinder and Instagram are ‘crippling’ relationships, sex therapist.” Eric Johnson, 2018.

[33] Google. “47 Incredible Instagram Statistics.” Kit Smith, 2019.

[6] Mashable. “Sliding into Instagram DMs is the new way of digitally flirting,” Rachel Thompson, 2017.

[7] Independent. “‘Tindstagramming’ is a new dating trend – and it needs to stop.” Olivia Petter, 2017.

[9] New York. “The Scourge of the Tindstagrammer: Tinder Rejects Who Creep on Instagram.” Paris Martineau, 2017.

[13] Refinery 29. “Tindstagramming Is The Creepy New Dating Trend You Need To Know.” Natalie Gil, 2017.

[11] VIDA Select. “How To Link And Disconnect Tinder From Instagram”

[8] Digital Trends. “First comes Instagram, then comes love: Why Instagram is displacing dating apps.” Molly McHugh, 2013.

[4] The New York Times. “Instagram Is Now a Dating Platform, Too. Here’s How It Works.” Valeriya Safronova, 2017.

[30] Google. “Hashtags for #hookup” 2017.

[29] Medium. “Going “Instagram official” is the new way to declare your relationship status.” Taylor Lorenz, 2017.

[26] HuffPost. “I Gave Up Dating Apps And Caught The Man Of My Dreams In A Thirst Trap On Instagram” Emily McCombs, 2018.

[24] “The New Dating Requirement: Consuming All of Your Partner’s #Content” Taylor Lorenz, 2018.

[16] Instagram Press. “Tips for Staying Safe on Instagram by Instagram Info Center.” Instagram Press, 2017.

[15] Mothers Circle. “5 Instagram Safety Tips for Teens.” Ali DeCesare, 2013.

Photo Credits

Photo by Jéssica Oliveira on Unsplash

Photo by Katka Pavlickovaon Unsplash

Photo by Fancycraveon Unsplash

Photo by João Silason Unsplash

Photo by Fancycraveon Unsplash

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