DEAR KELLY: One of our best friends has been going on Tinder, and we know it’s the not the best thing for her. We’re all seniors and she lies and says she’s 18 or 19 when she’s only 17. She’s met guys who are 20, 21 and a few even older. She thinks it’s fine to not tell the guys how old she is. She said she just flirts but we know she does more than that and that she likes all the attention.
A few weeks ago, a random girl texted her and said that she saw my friend’s number on her boyfriend’s phone and wondered why she was talking to her boyfriend. Our friend thought it was funny and got into a texting war with this girl. We all thought she was stupid because she doesn’t even know where this girl lives. She was telling my friend that if she found out who she was, she would come “handle it in person.”
When we told my friend she was being stupid, she got mad at us and it caused a big fight with us friends and her because everyone thinks she’s being ridiculous about this whole thing. One of the guys bought her an expensive purse from Nordstrom. She thinks its great, even though she told him she wasn’t interested in him after a few weeks. She even had one guy tell her he wanted to take her on a trip, but he looked in her purse when she wasn’t looking and saw how old she was. He freaked out and he never spoke to her again.
We know we can’t stop her. None of us want to rat her out for what she’s doing, so how do we persuade her she shouldn’t be doing this? Please tell us what to do. P.S. Her parents have no clue she is doing this and would totally freak if they found out.
DEAR FRIENDS: There are so many issues here I’m not sure where to start. Your friend is in trouble and she’s in too deep to see clearly. The choices she is making are careless, risky and lack judgment. Your attempts to help her have fallen on deaf ears because she’s not looking for help and she doesn’t see anything wrong with what she’s doing. That’s scary. She’s definitely flirting but it’s not with the boys, it’s with danger. The unfortunate thing about her “learning the hard way” is that it could involve serious harm to her and she’s not seeing the true risks involved with what she is doing.
I looked on Tinder and it has specific guidelines that state you must be 18 or older to be on it. It is an app intended for adults, not high school students. Not only is your friend lying, she’s breaking the law. And because of this, she could get someone else in a lot of legal trouble if they do not know her actual age. Not only is she being risky with sexual predators and the hazards associated with online hook-up sites, she’s being incredibly selfish and putting others at tremendous risk as well.
Being a friend means making tough decisions sometimes. This is one of those times. If you don’t tell someone what she is doing, there is a chance she may be hurt. Can you live with that responsibility that you knew she was out of control, yet you feared her being angry so you kept quiet? What’s better, a mad friend who gets help, or a happy friend who is dead?
While I don’t mean to scare you or dramatize the situation, your friend is putting herself in a position where a situation like this could happen based on the choices she is making and the people she is meeting. She has no idea who she is meeting and how they will respond to finding out her true age. She is dancing with danger and she has no plans to stop even after you all have shared your concerns. What does that tell you?
It’s time to talk with an adult because this situation is beyond that scope of your friendship. Your friend needs adult intervention and professional help to think about her actions and make the changes she needs to leading a safer and smarter life.
Change your thought process. You are not “ratting her out.” You are helping her. Huge difference. You are loving her enough to speak up and have her be angry as long as you know she is safe. That’s what friends do.
Tell an adult (parent, counselor, teacher) what you know. Ask them to share this information with her parents. Be OK with her getting angry or upset with you when they confront her with what they know. If she does, stand firm in knowing you did the right and loving thing because you all care. They need to get her professional counseling to explore why she’s doing what she is and what’s going on emotionally that is causing these choices. Her parents need to be aware of what’s going on so they can find the appropriate help for her.
Be a friend. Speak up. Don’t keep this secret until something very bad happens. Your friend has lost her way and your courage to reach out and get her help may be the thing she needs the most.