“Dear Ignacio, The current shelter in place mandate has got all my kids spending most of their time on their phones, especially my eldest. I caught a glimpse of my son’s phone and saw that he had Grindr installed. I know Grindr is a dating app for gay men, so I asked him about it and he said it was nothing and that his friends had installed it as a joke. Is my son gay and hiding it? What if he is talking to older men there? He’s only 17.”
The pandemic, social distancing, and its health and financial consequences has got so many of us under high stress. So let’s take a deep breath in and break this all down.
This is a time of uncertainty, fear, and quite frankly, boredom. It’s realistic that your kids would want to be on their phones even more than usual. If you’re concerned at all about their internet use, consider creating daily schedules, curating family activities, or having specified wifi time usage.
Now, let’s talk about Grindr. My first question is, “what is the joke in installing Grindr?” This could be a good starting point for talking about sexual orientation with your son, in case you haven’t already had that conversation. If you talking directly to him may not be well-received, cue up some LGBTQ coming of age films and watch them together. See what his reaction is. Have a conversation about it afterwards.
You may want to know that Grindr isn’t exclusively for gay men. It’s for gay and bisexual men, as well as trans folks. I don’t know if your son is gay. Only he can answer that and he may not have that answer now. He could be very certain about his sexual orientation, or he could be exploring his desires or curiosities.
Your concern over him possibly meeting an older guy online is a real one. Since he is 17, he is not a minor but that shouldn’t stop you from giving him and your other kids a course on how to protect themselves on the web. It’s very important that you try not to use scare tactics to educate your child. Talk to him. Ask him a question. Laugh with him. Make it as smooth as possible. I know it’s rough handling these common everyday life matters while in lockdown. If you are able to, call other parents for support. You can do this. Don’t forget to exhale.