Safety Tips for Au Pairs Using Tinder and Other Dating Apps

by cv harquail on March 22, 2016

Used to be we’d only have to give our Au Pairs a safety lecture about drunk guys at bars who assume things when they hear the words “Au Pair”.  Now, if our Au Pairs are using dating apps to meet people, we might have to expand our conversation about what’s safe and what’s appropriate.

Yes, I know that “everybody” uses dating sites and apps these days.

Heck, even my 85 year old Mother in Law is on trying to meet a fellow who still has a heartbeat. And decent values.

But, with Au Pairs as with young adults, we need to offer them some advice that goes beyond Freaky Friday’s:

make good choices


But what should that advice be?  Here’s a specific question from SwipingLeftHostMom :

Our AP is now on Tinder and her dates are picking her up and dropping her off at our house (she doesn’t drive). While I did some online dating myself, I would never give my address to a person I didn’t know well (whether I met him online or at bar).

Perhaps I’ve watched too many episodes of Criminal Minds, but I am not comfortable with these random guys knowing where we live. I would love our AP to meet someone special, but I don’t want my family to be affected by a bad decision she makes. Any advice? 


massmom March 22, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Oh, man. We’ve been lucky in that our au pairs haven’t been overly interested in dating (at least not that we knew of). We make clear during their first week that it is not a good idea to get into a car with anyone that you don’t know, and that they should always feel free to call us at anytime of night if they feel unsafe and need a ride. Once we have developed a little more of a relationship, we do have a talk about how American dating differs from dating in their culture (which is more group dating/hangouts). American men can be much more direct and we talk about what intentions and expectations might be compared to what they are used to. If they do start to get involved with someone more seriously, we ask that they bring him by for dinner so we can get to know him a bit. But we’ve never had to deal with dating apps.

I would definitely have a sit-down with this au pair, and help her identify a safe, transit-accessible meeting place that she can suggest for first dates. There is no way I would want a parade of strange men showing up at my place, more for her safety than anything. I would also make sure that she lets me, or at the very least a close friend, know when and where she has dates so we can make sure she arrives home safely. I’d also let her know that she can text me at any time if she needs an “emergency” call to get her out of an uncomfortable evening. And this might make me old-fashioned, but I might suggest some other ways to meet people that aren’t expressly focused on dating — like a co-ed sports league with a social aspect to it — that would provide multiple benefits like exercise and new friendships along with the hope of a love connection.

hOstCDmom March 22, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Side note –
This has worked with our au pairs, not just re dating apps. We ask them to always write down their plans (travel, dating, significant outing, overnight plans etc.) and leave them in their top desk drawer ( this is a place we agree on, that doesn’t house any of their personal-personal items — it is where the pull out computer keyboard is). Then, if ever something happens – i.e. they don’t come home, we have access to more detailed info about where they are, with whom, phone numbers etc.

In the normal course of day to day living, we ask them to text us their general plans also, along the lines of: “going out to nearby town, will be home around midnight” but to avoid their feeling of having to be actively accountable and actively share the perhaps more personal details of where they are going, with whom, dating etc. that might make them feel infantilized a bit, we settled on the drawer option. They know that we aren’t checking that drawer, but that if they really didn’t come home/were totally unreachable, we have some starter information to tell the police.

For us, this has worked as a decent compromise, and the APs understood why we wanted some sort of back up, but that day to day/hour by hour, we didn’t want them to have to answer to use re every detail of where they are/with whom they are.

WarmStateMomma March 22, 2016 at 1:07 pm

I like that!! We will use that idea next time.

oranje_mama April 4, 2016 at 2:58 pm

How do you know that AP is actually doing the drawer thing? Do you check?

We ask AP to text us the basics (if she’s not coming home, when she’ll be home, etc) but she didn’t do it regularly. Instead what we’ve decided to require from the get-go is that Find my Friends is installed on the AP iPhone (which we pay for). Deal is, we don’t check unless we haven’t heard from her and are concerned.

AP_Worldtravel June 14, 2016 at 12:22 pm

First time commenter :) Although this was posted a few months ago I just wanted to say that I love this idea and will definitely talk to my future HF about this when I get there in July!

WarmStateMomma March 22, 2016 at 1:06 pm

We haven’t had an issue with this, but I insist on a code system (with plenty of eye-rolling from HD). If the AP is out anywhere and wants a safe ride home, she just calls and asks how the sick kid is doing. The more urgent her situation, the sicker she talks about the kid being. Then I (being the mean HM) insist she comes home to help with the sick child.

We (thankfully) have never had to use this code, but it works for any situation: dates, friend being too drunk to drive, creepy HD when AP is sleeping over a friend’s house, etc. I remind the AP to call us anytime if she ever needs a safe ride home – we’d rather get that call than have to call her parents to say something bad happened to their daughter.

I do give them stats on dating violence and rape in the US so they can make informed decisions about whether to park in that cheap, dark lot or the well-lit space next to the venue, etc.

If an AP was dating, I’d talk to her about contraception, STDs, US dating customs, etc., since my APs have been unfamiliar with any of that. I’d definitely send her links to sites with info about contraception and STDs so she could get more info without the embarrassment of speaking further with me. This is an area where the AP’s culture will inform how much you need to bring her up to speed.

Above all, I’d try to come across as caring and supportive (rather than judgmental) so she will feel comfortable talking to me.

NYhostmom March 22, 2016 at 2:00 pm

This concerns me for two reasons:
1. Tinder is a “hook up” app! It is widely known that most people on Tinder are looking for casual sex. If AP has the information and resources that she needs to make safe decisions then, if I was her HM, I wouldn’t concern myself with her choices so long as it didn’t have an impact my family. BUT, I have to wonder if this AP is aware of Tinder’s reputation. There are plenty of dating sites/apps she could use that would be better for actual dating.
2. I would NOT be okay with my AP giving out my address or being picked up at my house. Not unless an actual dating relationship was established.

OP, you asked for advice on handling this. Here is what I would do in your situation: I’d explain the reputation of Tinder, and explain your concerns about strange men picking her up at your house. Since she doesn’t drive, I *might* offer to drop her off and pick her up on a Friday or Saturday. (I say “might” because I wouldn’t go out of my way for a mediocre AP, but would happily offer this to a good AP.)

AuPair Paris March 22, 2016 at 2:23 pm

I want to jump in here, and say that while Tinder is sometimes used for casual hook ups, it is also used as a dating site. I have mentioned this on here before – but the vast majority of my AP friends found their lovely boyfriends on Tinder and would be quite offended if someone assumed that they were only looking for a hook up.

(Personally, I have no problem with people using Tinder however they want, but I’m just making a point about assumptions… It’s a short jump from “well, (s)he was using tinder so (s)he *must* have been after a hook up” and some really, really nasty victim blaming stuff. So I thought I’d jump in.)

NYhostmom March 22, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Your point is well taken, and that is why I didn’t jump to any conclusions and I specifically avoided any language that might be interpreted as negative or shaming. I don’t have any problem at all with people using Tinder for any reason at all, but I wondered if this AP was aware of its reputation. And I absolutely think it is worth the HM brining this up with her AP.

AuPair Paris March 22, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Yeah I know – I didn’t mean you specifically – just how I’ve seen that point about Tinder progress in the past. I suspect that the reputation of Tinder is different in different circles, generations, countries etc. I’d never even heard of it before all my American AP friends starting using it to find romance – and so I didn’t have the same knowledge of its reputation when they talked about it. I wonder if it’s less hook-ups and more mainstream in Europe. Or in the US, since it was American APs who first mentioned it to me… Or if it’s a generation thing, or a simple matter of weeding out the creeps (which is any dating site, as far as I can tell).

Having said all that, I am not sure it would be worth the HM mentioning its reputation to the AP. I can think of a few scenarios:

– HM expresses concern about reputation of Tinder. AP takes it (however meant) as an attack on her reputation or as shaming her. Is embarrassed, upset, angry.
– HM expresses concern over reputation of Tinder. AP has already deleted a million inappropriate messages, found a nice-seeming date, and is suddenly struck by the horror of thinking her HF is going to be looking on her social/love life as sordid, no matter how she feels about it.
HM expresses concern over reputation of Tinder. AP wants a casual hook up, and is made very uncomfortable over the fact that this unspoken/unknown fact has suddenly been spoken. By her boss. Feels the need to defend herself/feels shamed.

I think it’s going to be reeeeally far down the list that HM expresses concern over reputation of Tinder, AP had no idea, and is really grateful for this new info, thanks her HM and never uses the site again. Especially since, like I said, creepy guys are abundant and VOCAL on the site, so AP has already seen messages from them, and filtered them out. Or not.

New to This March 22, 2016 at 11:57 pm

What about something like “Tinder has a particular reputation in the US for being especially popular among men whose attitudes might be on the predatory side, so you may want to be even more careful there than on other dating sites about screening out men who you’re not 100% confident will treat you respectfully.” I would guess that potential predatory behavior is the real concern, not just potential mismatch in intentions (which is maybe disappointing but not in itself dangerous), so if the host mom feels that a warning is necessary, that seems like the more relevant focus anyway. (Also note that I certainly don’t think all men looking for casual hookups are predatory, but I can see where those who are of a predatory bent might hang around a hookup site, so again, I’m assuming that’s where the reason for a warning comes in…)

NoVA Twin Mom March 23, 2016 at 12:24 pm

I like New to This’s phrasing – but it might be something to put in a Host Family Handbook or to address when the au pair arrives, not once you’ve learned how she just met her date to avoid the issues Au Pair Paris points out.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 22, 2016 at 10:51 pm

Currently hosting my 12th AP – my advice – encourage your AP to meet men in a public place with another AP friend (or friends) in tow! Encourage group activities until she knows she is safe. Tell her not to accept a drink (alcoholic or not) from anyone but a bartender or server. My handbook says it’s never too late to call me if the AP feels she is in trouble. I’d rather come pick her up at 2 am than get a call that she’s dead. AP #8 was the most clueless out of all my APs. She once wandered into an impoverished neighborhood about 1/2 mile from my home and was immediately hit on. She was thrilled! I could see her shiver with delight as she told me about the encounter and how she was meeting him later. She looked crestfallen when I encouraged her to pick a public place and bring along a friend. Of course he wanted one thing, and I wanted her to make sure she knew she was safe with him before it happened.

Part of the “gap year” experience comes with the same sexual experimentation that the freshman year of college encourages. The difference is that APs are experiencing a new culture and don’t always know how to read the cues. While I don’t truly believe in locis parentis – I do try to play the role of the auntie who wants to protect a young niece. While I can’t stop APs from giving out their cell phone number, I can encourage them not to be picked up at home until they’ve met the guy a few times. In the 15 years we’ve been hosting, no AP has put us at risk (although there was the guy at the Social Security office, who when smitten with our first AP, went into her application to get our address and phone number – you better believe his supervisor got a call!).

Sure, have fun playing around, but it’s very important to know how to keep yourself safe!

TexasHM March 23, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Honestly the Tinder part doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if she’s connecting with them online, via an app, chance meetings in bars or on the street. The problem is, at the end of the day, she is having a string of random men that she does not know very well come to your home on a regular basis. As an AP there are some compromises that have to be made when you agree to live under someone else’s roof. Having virtual strangers come to your residence on a regular basis is unacceptable.

I agree that if she has no form of transportation you probably need to figure out a way to enable her to get to/from your house unless you are ok with her having strangers pick her up and drop her off all the time. I mean honestly she has no other option right now so I think you need to decide how important this is to you. Important enough to pay for her to Uber to a local public spot and back or take her and pick her up yourself. It’s one thing to tell an au pair that has access to transportation that she needs to not have strangers pick her up at your house, it’s entirely another for an au pair that doesn’t have transportation.

For the record, tender no longer has the hook up reputation amongst people in the au pair age range. It’s only us old farts that still say that! ;). The vast majority of the au pairs in our area use tinder and they are not using it to hook up and several have boyfriends that they met via the app. The people on the app that want to hook up usually state so immediately and when they don’t find a willing subject they move on to find someone thats down for that. The app is so mainstream now and so easy to use that people in the au pair generation are using it just is a regular dating app. I’ve talked about it with our current AP and her response was she wasn’t looking for a relationship so had no interest. By the way the vast majority of her friends are Americans and that’s where she learned about the app. But like I said at the end of the day it doesn’t matter the root of the problem is you are uncomfortable with strangers coming to your home so you need to work together to find an amenable solution to that problem.

hOstCDmom March 23, 2016 at 12:03 pm


Mimi March 23, 2016 at 12:06 pm

Tinder is still a hook up app in many geographical areas, espcially around colleges and universities. My AP found this out the hard way recently. :)

WarmStateMomma March 23, 2016 at 9:19 pm

I feel so out of touch! I found out about Tindr on AP Mom.

Returning HM March 23, 2016 at 11:11 pm

Me too!

TexasHM March 25, 2016 at 3:32 pm

Mimi we aren’t saying the same thing. What I’m saying is if you talk to APs and college students they don’t see Tinder as a hook up only app. Do some people use it for that? Absolutely! Just like some do on or other dating sites (or bars! ;). It’s very mainstream now so they don’t see it that way. The guys/gals that want one thing usually put it out front on their photo page! They also put “looking for a real relationship” “looking for friends” “looking for friends with benefits” etc so it’s usually not subtle and poor APs are getting snookered. We tend to be the AP hangout so they school me on all the latest on a regular basis. :)

Mimi March 28, 2016 at 11:07 am

I think it depends on where you live in the US. My experience is that it is still considered primarily as a hook up app in my area by college students. My AP started using Tinder on the advice of another AP in NY who uses it for dating there (as does a lot of her AP friends in that area). However, it is not used for dating in the college town I work and live in which is only 150 miles from NYC. My student workers weighed in on this when my AP had her recent experiences and their take was that Tinder is 90% hook ups and 10% dating/meeting people in our area among their age group. One of the students came right out and said that people who say they use Tinder for dating are “lying because they don’t want to be judged.” There are other apps that are considered “worse” than Tinder when it comes to hook-ups, but they wouldn’t say which ones and I didn’t ask. :) Bumble and Friendsy are more popular here for dating and MeetUp is used a lot for group activities and interests/networking.

NBHostMom March 23, 2016 at 5:20 pm

In my opinion, this au pair needs a good chat regarding dating safety. Even if she doesn’t agree, she at minimum needs to follow your boundaries…. “You may not give out our home address”.

It’s funny, all except one of our au pairs have been vey safety conscious. However, one au pair saw no risk in using a couch surfing app to subsidize her travels. I absolutely did not like her choice to do this and I feel she was extremely lucky she did not ever end up in a dangerous situation. I talked to her endlessly about this but in the end it was her travel month and I can only attempt to influence her on things that don’t impact us personally. I think the same applies to you, you can forbid her to share your address, explain the dangers, offer alternatives, but she will control who’s car she gets into when she’s not working, especially if she’s not being picked up at your home.

German Au-Pair March 23, 2016 at 7:16 pm

I think it’s the AP’s business if she wants to sleep her way through the US. I would not tell her about Tinder’s reputation as it may come across as being judgemental and the idea of your HP thinking about YOUR intentions is somewhat disturbing…
But no matter what her intentions are, I would absolutely not allow her to bring strangers to the house ever.
My HF actually told me before matching that I could bring fellow APs any time but would have to ask about others beforehand and never bring home a guy I just met (anywhere). Even with female non-AP friends I explained to them how I knew them before I brought them over. That to me was simply a matter of respect. I knew my female non-AP friends from being friends with my HC’s teacher so clearly I knew they were safe and I knew my HP would approve but it would have never occured to me just to appear with them.
I did have a car though, which made the whole situation easier. I would still insist on her never giving out your home address unless she is ready for you to meet the person (like a serious relationship) and then work out how you can solve the issue with not being able to get somewhere easily.
I would phrase it in a way that shows you are not judging the fact that she HAS multiple dates, but makes it very clear that strangers are not welcome due to safety concerns for you and your children. Any reasonable adult should be able to accept that.

Regarding alerting her to the dangers of tinder, if you’re willing to go into that I wouls simply remind her of the dangers the American culture may bring (my knowdlege of the date rape drug stems from American culture exclusively) and if she’s from a culture where online dating may not have been as common (as appears to be the case in China?) I would generally aler her to the risks and how to deal with potentially dangerous situations.

azmom March 24, 2016 at 9:13 pm

We always had a rule that only other au pairs coud have our address. Otherwise the nearest elementary school (3 minute walk) was the drop off / pick up point.

AuPairGirl May 4, 2016 at 5:52 pm

I ALWAYS let my HF know where I’m going, not always I say what time I’ll be back but if I’m sleeping over at my boyfriend’s or friend’s house, I let them know. If I’m not sleeping over and just going somewhere I think it’s fair enough to let them know where I am going, specially because I’m using their car. One more reason to tell them what I’m up to, besides my safety of course. I have no problems telling them but I know people who feel childish telling their HF where they are going, which is funny is that usually comes from the younger au pairs.

About Tinder, americans might know it’s a hook up app but foreigners totally see it as a dating website. 100% of my friends have Tinder, but me. I have a boyfriend so I don’t use it but all of my girls really think they will find love forever on Tinder, and they are all around 24 – 26 years old.

You should just tell her you don’t feel comfortable having people you don’t know by your door, and it would be more appropriate if she sets up a pick up/drop off location. Just be careful with the words you will use, she could feel easily offended, suggesting she is going out with too many guys. Besides that I think you are good and she will understand. Just in case have some safety tips for her about going out with strangers and maybe a SOS text message she can send to you. I’ve heard so many crazy histories in these secret au pairs groups you guys would be shocked.

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