“Shopping” for single parents

Offenders targeting parents on dating apps

“Do you have children?”

“Do your children live with you?”

Registering for some of the most popular dating apps1, include prompts like these. They are valid questions to ask when looking for a partner, but they can also be misused, offering people who want to harm kids a chance to target their prospective partners because they have children.

As mentioned in a previous blog about “sharenting2, there are inherent risks associated with sharing information and pictures of your children online, including on dating apps.

In October 2022, the Australian Institute of Criminology released a study3 looking into the exploitation of Australian children on dating apps and websites, surveying 9,900+ people. Notably, the study found that around one in 10 respondents4 said someone they met on a dating app or website asked them to provide photos of their children or children they knew – half of these respondents said they had been pressured to provide sexual photos of the children.5

In 20226,, Canada’s tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children, received nine reports that relate to offenders targeting single parents to access their children and an additional 10 reports that potentially connect to similar cases.

“Dating services are like shopping malls for pedophiles.”

— Manual for offenders

Offenders have written and circulated a manual online, providing tips on how to target single parents on dating apps, mostly directing their advice towards male offenders seeking single mothers, saying:

“…moms usually get primary custody rights. Many single moms are therefore looking for new partners, either actively or passively, leaving a lot of single moms with children available out there for pedophiles to exploit.”

The manual mentions the “convenience” of dating apps that let you sort matches based on criteria, like single mothers of a specific age group in an area.

Consider being selective in what you share on dating apps

It can be difficult to read people’s intentions, so putting boundaries in place to protect your children is extremely important.

Do not include your children’s information on your profile

Not including photos or information about your children in your dating app profile helps to ward off offenders searching for single parents online.

Think about the following:

  • While it’s understandable that you want to be up front about having kids to potential partners, it’s important to be aware there may be users who have joined these apps for the sole purpose of trying to gain access to children. So, it’s important to limit what’s shared about your kids, especially when exploring a new dating relationship.
  • Project Arachnid commonly finds stolen pictures within offender forums and chatrooms. The images may have been originally posted innocently, but are reposted and used in a way that sexualizes and harms children7. Limiting what you share, including images/videos of your children will help safeguard your children and reduce risk when using a dating app.

Dating apps should put additional safeguards in place to protect users and their children. It’s important to be vigilant when using dating apps and limit the amount of information that you share online about your children.