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Why dating site Tinder is restricting use to those over age 18

As social media heightens concerns over minors being exposed to online predators, Tinder made the decision this week to raise the minimum age of its users to 18.

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    Developers look over new apps being displayed on iPads at the 2013 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. Tinder announced this week that it is raising its users' age requirement to 18.
    Eric Risberg/AP/File
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Dating app Tinder announced yesterday that by next week, teenagers under the age of 18 will no longer be able to use the app, due to concerns about responsibility and safety. 

As it stands, teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 have been allowed to use the app, although their potential Tinder "matches" have been restricted to other app users within their age group.

Now, Tinder is seeking to change all that.

"On a platform that has facilitated over 11 billion connections, we have the responsibility of constantly assessing our different user experiences," wrote Tinder in a statement. "Consistent with this responsibility, we have decided to discontinue service for under 18 users."

Tinder has a reputation of facilitating hookups instead of relationships, a factor that may have influenced the platform's decision to establish an age restriction. The precautionary measure won't effect the majority of Tinder's user base. A Tinder spokeswoman says that users age 17 and younger only amount to about 3 percent, or around 1.5 million users out of 50 million.

Tinder is not the only popular app to introduce age restrictions. Other dating sites, such as OkCupid and Hinge, have long had age restrictions, and many other social media platforms restrict their users by age. Popular sties such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram all require users to be at least 13. Some are more stringent, with WhatsApp setting an age requirement of 16, and Vine requiring users to be 18. 

But even with an official company policy, it's not always easy to prevent younger users from creating false profiles with fake older ages. Some question the effectiveness of Tinder's decision, saying that young people under the age of 18 often already attempt to move into the higher age classification by making false Facebook profiles (Tinder builds its profiles by connecting to existing Facebook profiles).

Other apps that require users to be over the age of 18, such as Kik, have already faced criticism from those who say their anonymity makes disguising one's age too easy. There have been several instances of older men luring young teenagers, supposedly protected by Kik's minimum age restriction, into relationships.

The problem, according to tech experts, is that age limits are difficult to enforce. Many young people simply ignore them. According to the BBC, a study of young people on social media showed that 78 percent of children under the age of 13 (the most common age restriction for social media website) were using social media.

This week's announcement comes just days after Tinder's announcement last week that it hopes to make using the app more accessible to transgender users.

The app will soon add more gender options than the standard "male" and "female" it currently features.

"One challenge we face at Tinder is making sure our tens of millions of users around the world have the same user experience," said Tinder in a statement to Fortune. "No matter who you are, no matter what you're looking for, you should get quality matches through the Tinder experience."

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