Wink: The Teen Tinder
Friendship. It’s one of the things we as teens crave the most. Everyone wants the perfect friendship almost as much as the perfect relationship. Still, during times of isolation and global crisis, we often seek new ways to get that meaningful connection.
The friendship app Wink first peaked at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 but quickly gained traction again. The app's first version was mainly a Snapchat add-on and a way to find new friends to snap. Over the last few years, the app has become more stand-alone and now has chat features within the app without the need to take it directly to Snapchat.
So how does it work?
In a format similar to Tinder and other dating apps, it is based around swiping left and right on potential friends (left for no and right for yes). When creating an account, you can add up to 6 photos, a bio, a voice intro, and your interests to help find people with similar passions. You can also verify your profile which helps you reach more people and gives you different messaging options. The app allows you to choose who you interact with by picking an age range between 12-17, genders, and either only in their country or worldwide. Wink + users (the app’s paid subscription) can also choose to see only verified profiles and have other benefits like further boosting your profile, giving unlimited swipes, and the option to replay rejected profiles. You use app currency called ‘gems’ to swipe on profiles and purchase different app backgrounds. Gems can be earnt by returning to the app daily, making friends, and keeping up daily chat streaks.
When you swipe right, the user sends a request to the other person to be friends. If the person accepts, Wink automatically sends ‘Hi’, ‘Hey’, ‘What’s up’ or ‘’ to start your conversation. When chatting with your friend, you can send photos, GIFs, audio messages, and inbuilt question stickers called ‘icebreakers’. You can also audio, and video call through the app if you both have verified profiles.
Any images sent through the app are screened for inappropriate content, and Wink claims, "If you share inappropriate content on Wink, your account will be shut down.”
In theory, the app sounds good, (who doesn’t want to make new friends?) but in reality, it’s treated like a dating app. Shirtless pictures, drugs, and Snapcodes/usernames are all against Wink’s photo guidelines but are featured in most profiles. Many bios make sexual comments or ask for sexual favours, with taglines like, ‘hmu’ (hit me up), ‘send pics’, ‘single’, ‘down for anything and much more. The Wink team works hard to take down inappropriate profiles, but when one gets taken down, three more pop up in its place.
Like many dating apps, Wink gives many avenues for users o take their communication off the app. Users can link their Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok accounts to their Wink profile.
As a parent, it’s hard to know exactly what your child is doing online, but by teaching them skills to handle problems and allowing open communication, you can be better prepared for any issues that may arise.
The app has created teen and parent safety guides, and I highly recommend that you and your child read them before using the app. They further cover how the app works, what is and isn’t allowed on Wink, and what to do if your child runs into a problem. Educate your child on the importance of not sharing their location, full name, and other personal information with anyone they meet online. Make sure your child knows how to report and block; take screenshots for evidence if bullying occurs.
The recommended age on the app store is 12+ as a guideline, but I believe it should be much higher. The negatives far outweigh the positives, and the app is a breeding ground for catfishing and grooming. Even though you may find the occasional nice person, friendships are better made in real life.
About the author - Madison 15yrs
I’m super excited to be working with the Safe on Social Youth Advisory Committee because I love researching, learning and using my knowledge to guide other people. I’m passionate about online safety, and I enjoy working with other people.
When I’m not studying, reading, or designing my future house, I’m at the beach, hanging out with friends, or doing makeup. I love drama and hope that I can be on TV or in movies one day.