Schoolies – all fun and games until somebody throws a flare. Picture: Jason Edwards
Schoolies – all fun and games until somebody throws a flare. Picture: Jason Edwards

Schoolies was a nightmare long before Tinder

If Tinder's potential sponsorship of Schoolies made you panic this week, you've done a poor job of giving your children a moral compass or you have no idea what's been going on in their world.

News that the dating app Tinder, trading off its swipe right business model, planned to exploit the commercial opportunity by partnering with Schoolies triggered outrage, forcing the plan to be scrapped.

Organisers had sent out an email to graduates with a rather direct message to hook up with other school leavers along the glitter strip.

"GET ON THIS … Tinder is coming to Schoolies in 2019 to make every SINGLE moment count," it boasted.

"Because we know single never has to go home early, knows all the best places and goes home with the wildest stories.

"Download the app to unlock amazing Schoolies experiences #SingleNotSorry".

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Parents like Libby Marshall led the charge, with Tinder believed to have pulled the plug on Wednesday afternoon.

Marshall said in an earlier interview: "I'm just appalled. Tinder is one of the most appalling apps around - it ruins mature age people let alone impressionable and vulnerable teenagers.

"It's planting the seed that spontaneous, casual sex with anyone is okay and I think it's completely the wrong message to be sending to our kids."

But banned or not, Tinder and its ilk aren't going away any time soon.

And isn't it exactly this sort of app and the sort of behaviour it is meant to encourage that we should be teaching our children to deal with?

 

Boy meets girls on the streets of Kuta during the schoolies period in Bali. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Boy meets girls on the streets of Kuta during the schoolies period in Bali. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

 

To put it bluntly, did anyone really imagine that thousands of 17 and 18 year olds, thrown together in cheap beachside accommodation with booze and pills and God knows what else at the ready actually need an app to organise a casual hook-up?

Marshall argued that Schoolies "should be a celebration of life and achievement, not just all about sex … Where is the moral compass of the world?"

Again, to be blunt, the fact is that it is a parent's job to make sure your kids develop a strong one because it's that and good instincts that will help them navigate life. And whatever Schoolies throws at them.

I sympathise with parents like Marshall and I can absolutely understand her anger.

No one likes the idea of casual sex or reckless emotional behaviour planted in the mind of their son or daughter.

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But the reality is questionable activity is the essence of Schoolies. It was unlikely that Tinder was going to have an impact.

As one former Schoolies-goer told me, what loser is going to admit to be on Tinder when they're on the physical prime of their life?

Still, the wider issue of protecting or preparing kids for Schoolies, should they opt to attend, is not something to diarise a week before the plane embarks.

 

Mum Libby Marshall is upset that Gold Coast Schoolies organisers encouraged teens to hook up on Tinder.
Mum Libby Marshall is upset that Gold Coast Schoolies organisers encouraged teens to hook up on Tinder.

 

Sure there might be a few dawn yoga and wellness sessions scheduled to harness the hormones but by all accounts there's still plenty happening.

The former schoolies I spoke with relayed horror stories of having MDMA tabs shoved in their hands amid a crowd of strangers, vomiting in cupboards, check-in staff turning a blind eye while multiple slabs of beer were wheeled into apartment lifts, strippers, and tearful, regular 2am calls to mum.

One told me: "We were in the 15th floor apartment and the balcony was locked so we didn't fall off and kill ourselves. Schoolies is worse than Tinder. Everything feels like the end of the world. There's such a build up - it's like seven nights of New Year's Eve."

Then there's my friend's kids, rather charmingly, would rather meet girls on a dance floor or at a pub or at parties or through friends where they can actually get to know them.

But they are all adamant about the importance of respect - both ways - when it comes to interactions with the opposite sex.

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Another friend of mine's son went to schoolies two years ago with a group of mates. When they got on the plane they found one of the group's mothers sitting in the back row.

She spent the whole week shadowing her son, under the guise of "keeping him safe" because he was 17.

 

Schoolies week can feel like New Year’s Eve sevcen nights in a row, say some participants. Picture: Liam Kidston.
Schoolies week can feel like New Year’s Eve sevcen nights in a row, say some participants. Picture: Liam Kidston.

 

 

Not only was he mortified and embarrassed but upon returning home and coming of age, he immediately thumbed his nose at her rules and surveillance. He is now a heavy smoker, a binge drinker and goes home with a different girl every weekend. His story may be extreme, but it demonstrates the reality of what can happen if you push too hard.

Schoolies is not for everyone. There will be exposure to alcohol, drugs, sexual predators (female and male) and all the physical dangers that come with this.

But instead of thinking our kids are heading out with nothing but a blind bender on their minds, perhaps we should give them a bit of credit.

How they deal with the fallout of these decisions will be what makes them really come of age or go running to mum and dad to sort out the mess for them.

So instead of celebrating the Tinder-free Schoolies ask yourself: what have I prepared for kids for in life?

 

@whatlouthinks