about teens dating

Dating Among Teens. Publication Date: Publication Date: Related Indicators: The Child Trends databank of indicators related to child and youth well-being is no longer being updated so that we can focus on data tools and products core to the work of policymakers and other stakeholders, such as: Trends in dating among teens. Although dating in adolescence is still common, students in the eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades in 2017 were less likely to report dating than their counterparts were in 1992. This shift is more pronounced for twelfth-grade students, where the proportion of youth who report they did not date more than tripled, from 15 percent in 1992 to 49 percent in 2017. In the same period, the proportion of tenth graders who never date increased from 28 to 55 percent, and the proportion of eighth graders increased from 47 to 71 percent. Much of this increase has come recently, with the proportion of twelfth graders never dating increasing by 7 percentage points from 2014 to 2017, and the proportion of tenth and eighth graders increasing by 7 and 9 percentage points, respectively, over the same period (Appendix 1). In a similar trend, the proportion of teens who report they date more than once a week has been decreasing. From 1992 to 2017, the percentage of twelfth graders who reported they went on more than one date per week declined from 34 to 14 percent. In the same period, the proportion of tenth graders who reported frequent dating also declined, from 17 to 7 percent. The proportion of eighth graders who date frequently remained fairly constant from 1992 to 2011, between 7 and 8 percent. However, the proportion has since decreased, and was 3 percent in 2017 (Appendix 2). Differences by age. In 2017, more than two-thirds (71 percent) of eighth-grade students reported never dating, compared with 55 percent of tenth graders, and 49 percent of twelfth graders (Appendix 1). The share of students who date more than once a week increases markedly with age, from 3 percent among eighth-grade students, to 7 percent of tenth-grade students, to 14 percent of twelfth graders, in 2017 (Appendix 2). Differences by gender. In 2017, male eighth and twelfth graders reported higher rates of frequent dating than their female counterparts, but in tenth grade, the two genders were nearly equally likely to report frequent dating (Appendix 2). Females at all three grade levels were more likely than males to report that they never date, though this gap decreases at higher grade levels (Appendix 1). Differences by race/Hispanic origin Attitudes and practices around adolescent dating are influenced by cultural, historical, and other factors, including those associated with race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic white and Hispanic students in the twelfth grade were more likely than non-Hispanic black students to report they date frequently. In 2017, 16 percent of non-Hispanic white and 15 percent of Hispanic twelfth graders reported frequent dating (more than once a week), compared with 10 percent of non-Hispanic black students. In tenth grade as well, non-Hispanic white and Hispanic students were more likely to date frequently (7 percent among both groups) than non-Hispanic black students (5 percent). In eighth grade, however, non-Hispanic black students reported the highest rate of frequent dating (5 percent), followed by Hispanic (4 percent) and non-Hispanic white students (2 percent; Appendix 2). In twelfth grade, race and Hispanic origin are also associated with the likelihood of never dating. In 2017, 51 percent of Hispanic and 50 percent of non-Hispanic black students reported never dating, followed by 45 percent of non-Hispanic white students. In tenth grade, non-Hispanic white students were less likely to report never dating, at 52 percent in 2017, compared with 59 percent of their non-Hispanic black peers, and 54 percent of their Hispanic peers. Among eighth graders, non-Hispanic white students reported the highest rate of never dating (72 percent), followed by their Hispanic and non-Hispanic black peers (70 and 66 percent, respectively; Appendix 1). Estimates for white and black youth exclude Hispanic youth and youth of two or more races. Hispanic youth include persons identifying as Mexican American or Chicano, Cuban American, Puerto Rican, or other Hispanic or Latino and no other racial/ethnic group. Differences by parental education. In 2017, there was not a clear relationship between parental education and frequent dating. For example, among eighth graders, 4 percent of students with parents who did not graduate from high school reported frequent dating, compared with 3 percent of students with a parent with a bachelor’s degree. Similarly, among tenth graders in 2017, 7 percent of students with parents who did not graduate from high school reported frequent dating, compared with 7 percent of students with a parent with a bachelor’s degree (Appendix 2). 6 Truths About Teens and Dating. Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, international bestselling author and host of the The Verywell Mind Podcast. Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified pediatric psychologist, parent coach, author, speaker, and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC. The prospect of your teen starting to date is naturally unnerving. It's easy to fear your child getting hurt, getting in over their head, being manipulated or heartbroken, and especially, growing up and leaving the nest. But as uncomfortable or scary as it may feel to consider your child with a romantic life, remember that this is a normal, healthy, and necessary part of any young adult's emotional development. How Teen Dating Has Changed. But what exactly does teen dating even look like these days?

The general idea may be the same as it's always been, but the way teens date has changed quite a bit from just a decade or so ago. Clearly, the explosion of social media and ever-present cellphones are two of the biggest influences on the changing world of teen dating—kids don't even need to leave their bedrooms to "hang out." Truths About Teen Dating. This quickly morphing social landscape makes it more challenging for parents to keep up, figure out how to talk with their teens about dating, and establish rules that will keep them safe. To help you navigate this unfamiliar territory, there are five essential truths every parent should know about the teen dating scene. Teen Romance Is Normal. While some teens will start dating earlier than others, romantic interests are normal and healthy during adolescence. Some kids are more overt or vocal about their interest in dating but most are paying attention and intrigued by the prospect of a romantic life, even if they keep it to themselves. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, dating helps teens build social skills and grow emotionally. Interestingly, teens "date" less now than they did in the past—perhaps in part due to the influx of cell phones and virtual social interactions. In 1991, only 14% of high school seniors did not date, while by 2013 that number had jumped to 38%. Of kids aged 13 to 17, around 35% have some experience with romantic relationships and 19% are in a relationship at any one time. But regardless of when it starts, the truth is that most teens, especially as they make their way through high school and college, are eventually going to be interested in dating. When they start dating, you’ll need to be ready by establishing expectations and opening a caring and supportive dialogue about these topics. Dating Builds Relationship Skills. Just like starting any new phase of life, entering the world of dating is both exciting and scary—for kids and their parents alike. Kids will need to put themselves out there by expressing romantic interest in someone else, risking rejection, figuring out how to be a dating partner, and what exactly that means. New skills in the realms of communication, caring, thoughtfulness, intimacy, and independence collide with a developing sexuality, limited impulse control, and the urge to push boundaries. Your teen may also have some unrealistic ideas about dating based on what they've seen online, in the movies, or read in books. Real-life dating doesn't mimic a teen Netflix or Disney movie—or porn. Instead, first dates may be awkward or they may not end in romance. Dates may be in a group setting or even via Snapchat—but the feelings are just as real. Today's teens spend a lot of time texting and messaging potential love interests on social media. For some, this approach can make dating easier because they can test the waters and get to know one another online first. For those teens who are shy, meeting in person can be more awkward, especially since kids spend so much time tied to their electronics at the expense of face-to-face communication. Understand that early dating is your teen's chance to work on these life skills. They may make mistakes and/or get hurt but ideally, they will also learn from those experiences. Your Teen Needs "The Talk" It's important to talk to your teen about a variety of dating topics, such as personal values, expectations, and peer pressure. Be open with your teen about everything from treating someone else with respect to your—and their—beliefs around sexual activity. It can be helpful to outline for your kids what early dating may be like for them. Even if your perspective is a bit outdated, sharing it can get the conversation started. Ask them what they have in mind about dating and what questions they may have. Possibly share some of your own experiences. Go over the topics of consent, feeling safe and comfortable, and honoring their own and the other person's feelings. Most importantly, tell them what you expect in terms of being respectful of their dating partner and vice versa. Talk about the basics too, like how to behave when meeting a date's parents or how to be respectful while you're on a date. Make sure your teen knows to show respect by being on time and not texting friends throughout the date. Talk about what to do if a date behaves disrespectfully. Talk to your child about safe sex. Additionally, don't assume you know (or should choose) the type (or gender) of the person your child will want to date. You might see your child with a sporty, clean-cut kid or a teen from their newspaper club, but they may express interest in someone else entirely. This is their time to experiment and figure out what and who they are interested in. Plus, we all know that the more you push, the more they'll pull. Your child may be interested in someone that you would never pick for them but aim to be as supportive as you can as long as it's a healthy, respectful relationship. Be open to the fact that sexuality and gender are a spectrum and many kids won't fall into the traditional boxes—or fit the exact expectations their parents have for them. Love your child no matter what. Privacy Is Essential. Your parenting values, your teen's maturity level, and the specific situation will help you determine how much chaperoning your teen needs. Having an eyes-on policy might be necessary and healthy in some circumstances but teens also need a growing amount of independence and the ability to make their own choices. Aim to offer your teen at least a little bit of privacy. Don't listen in on phone calls or eavesdrop on private chats, and don't read every social media message. Keep tabs on what you can, especially if you have any concerns about what is going on. You can certainly follow your child's public posts on social media. You'll need to follow your instincts on how closely to supervise what your child is doing. Inviting your child to bring their friends and dates to your house is another good strategy as you will get a better sense of the dynamic of the group or couple. Plus, if your child thinks you genuinely want to get to know their friends or romantic partners and aren't hostile to them, they are more likely to open up to you—and possibly, less likely to engage in questionable behavior. Your Teen Needs Guidance. While it's not healthy to get too wrapped up in your teen's dating life, there may be times when you'll have to intervene. If you overhear your teen saying mean comments or using manipulative tactics, speak up. Similarly, if your teen is on the receiving end of unhealthy behavior, it's important to step in and help out. There's a small window of time between when your teen begins dating and when they're going to be entering the adult world. Aim to provide guidance that can help them succeed in their future relationships. Whether they experience some serious heartbreak, or they're a heart breaker, adolescence is when teens begin to learn about romantic relationships firsthand. Expect that your child may feel uncomfortable talking about this stuff with you (and may even be explicitly resistant) but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try. Offer advice, a caring ear, and an open shoulder. Make sure they understand that anything put online is forever and that sending a nude photo can easily backfire—and be shared with unintended recipients. Don't assume they've learned what they need to know from sex ed, movies, and their friends—tell them everything you think they should know, even the obvious stuff. They probably have questions (but may not ask them), and they've likely picked up misinformation along the way that needs to be corrected. Safety Rules Must Be Established. As a parent, your job is to keep your child safe and to help them learn the skills they need to navigate healthy relationships. As your teen matures, they should require fewer dating rules. But rules for your teen should be based on their behavior, not necessarily their age. If they aren't honest about their activities or don't abide by their curfew or other rules, they may lack the maturity to have more freedom (as long as your rules are reasonable). Tweens and younger teens will need more rules as they likely aren't able to handle the responsibilities of a romantic relationship yet. Get to know anyone your teen wants to date. Establish the expectation that you'll be introduced before a date, whatever you want that to look like. You can always start by meeting their date at your home a few times for dinner before allowing your teen to go out on a date alone. Make dating without a chaperone a privilege. For younger teens, inviting a romantic interest to the house may be the extent of dating. Or you can drive your teen and their date to the movies or a public place. Older teens are likely to want to go out on dates without a chauffeur. Make that a privilege that can be earned as long as your teen exhibits trustworthy behavior. Create clear guidelines about online romance. Many teens talk online, which can easily develop into a false sense of intimacy. Consequently, they're more likely to meet people they've chatted with, but never met because they don't view them as strangers. Create clear rules about online dating and stay up to date on any apps your teen might be tempted to use, like Tinder. Know your teen's itinerary. Make sure you have a clear itinerary for your teen’s date. Insist your teen contact you if the plan changes. If you feel it's needed, you can set up tracking apps on your child's phone so you'll always know where they are. Establish a clear curfew. Make it clear you need to know the details of who your teen will be with, where they will be going, and who will be there. Establish a clear curfew as well. Your child may rail against these rules but may also feel comforted by them—not that they will tell you that. Set age limits. In some states, teens can legally date anyone they want once they reach 16, but in other states, they don’t have that choice until they turn 18. But, legal issues aside, there’s usually a big difference in maturity level between a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old. So, set some rules about the acceptable dating age range. Know who is at home at the other person's house. If your teen is going to a date’s home, find out who will be home. Have a conversation with the date’s parents to talk about their rules. Discuss technology dangers, like sexting. Sometimes, teens are tempted to comply with a date’s request to send nude photos. Unfortunately, these photos can become public very quickly and unsuspecting teens can end up hurt, shamed, or embarrassed. Establish clear cellphone rules that will help your teen make good decisions. A Word From Verywell. Consider that how you parent your child during this new stage can have big ramifications on their future relationships (romantic and otherwise), the lifestyle choices they make, and the mature adult they become. The more open and supportive you can be with them, the better. After all, if something does go awry, you'll want them to know that you're always in their corner. Teens and Dating: Advice for Having Healthy Relationships. How teenagers and young adults couple is a strong predictor of how they’ll connect later in life, so we want to take teen dating advice seriously. Most of us know that we should be doing a better job of talking to our kids about teen dating, sex, and love. But for most of us, talking about teens and dating is just plain uncomfortable. Psychologist Dr. Wes Crenshaw and former high school student Kyra Haas offer their best ideas for talking to teenagers about dating (and helping teens find love). Their insights will give you a basis for a more meaningful conversation with your teenager. week we’ll offer. It won’t surprise you to learn that they apply equally to the over-25 crowd, too. Dr. Wes’ Reminders about Romance: 1. The purpose of young relationships is to find out whom you don’t belong with. Love requires a good search, trial and error, and a fair measure of heartbreak. In fact, if you’re interested, we have rules for breaking up too. 2. You’re only really ready to date when you don’t need to have a relationship to be happy. Never let yourself stay with anyone you have to be with. Relationships require authentic choice, not dependency. We call this “differentiation.” It’s a word you’ll want teens to learn and use, and it begins at home with parents who are able to put aside their own longings to focus on who and what their teen wants to be. 3. Love isn’t just something you feel. It’s something you do. In fact, next year on Valentine’s Day, I think I’ll give away brain-shaped boxes of candy, rather than hearts. I want to encourage teens to balance all those deep feelings of love with some practical attention to detail. Like, does your partner do okay in school?

Does he or she treat others well? Does he or she have integrity?

4. Most people want to change … but not very much. 5. Never date someone you wouldn’t consider marrying. Of course, nobody is ready for marriage at 16 (or 20), but thinking this way can help your dating practice stay focused. Alternatively, never date anyone you wouldn’t let your son or daughter date when someday you have a son or daughter. 6. Never date anyone you don’t want to be broken up from. Judge partners not by how they treat people they like, but by how they treat people with whom they have conflict. You’ll undoubtedly be one of them some day. 7. Relationships go from where they start. 8. All relationships are four-dimensional. 9. The least motivated partner in a couple always has the most power—the power of walking away. 10. Feeling “meant to be together” is about the most overrated dating idea ever. Meaning to be together is where it’s at. Monogamy isn’t a natural state of being, so you have to get up every day and decide to be in a teen dating relationship. 11. Adversity is a critical test. 12. Don’t sleep too many times with someone you don’t want to fall in love with. Young women are especially fond today of claiming they can hook-up without emotional connection. Guys have always found pride in that dubious accomplishment. The problem is that most women are wired to connect, and nowhere is that truer than after sex when all the oxytocin is surging. Kyra’s Cautions: Here is my teen dating advice for staying together and knowing when to move apart. Use them in equal parts to find a good relationship. 13. Resist the urge to ‘gram it. Yes, your anticipated 150 Instagram likes and 12 comments on a dating selfie are probably spot-on perfect. However, weigh which is more important: this moment with your significant other, or the double-tap approval of that girl you sat next to at lunch once in middle school. 14. Listen to your head when it’s talking to you. Just because a decent-looking person wants to be more than friends, that doesn’t mean you should throw logic out the window and dive headfirst into what may be a shallow pool of actual substance. It’s better to acknowledge warning signs than to hold desperately to a slowing dying relationship a few months down the road. 15. Cling not to others, lest they cling to you. Relationships are based on trust, and if you or your partner must maintain constant contact 24/7, that’s a problem. Do things with each other, but don’t ignore or disregard other people. 16. Along the same lines, realize that while romantic relationships can be exciting, friendships are equally important. Blowing off friends for a new significant other will be harmful to all relationships involved. Don’t burn your bridges to follow your dream person, only to break up and have no one to fall back on. 17. Know when to call it off. Don’t hold onto a lost cause. Call me naïve, but I truly believe in the cliché that there is someone out there for everyone—and that someone isn’t one who creates more problems than they solve. 9 Tips for Talking to Teens about Dating and Relationships. It happened. You knew it would, but you didn’t think it would happen so quickly. In spite of any hope you had of slowing down the clock, you woke up one day to find that your child is not so childlike anymore. ddenly, hormones are raging, romantic feelings are developing, and, of course, it doesn’t stop there. Before you know it, your teen may be entering the dating world. For many, raising a teenager is the most intimidating chapter of parenthood. Discipline becomes increasingly difficult and may feel impossible to maintain. It’s tough to know when to set rules and when to give freedom, when to bend and when to stand firm, when to intervene and when to let live. Communication is often one of the trickiest minefields to navigate. It’s a struggle to know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. These conversations and decisions only become more challenging when the time comes for your teen to start dating. As we near the end of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, we want to remind parents how important it is to do their part to help prevent teen dating violence and promote healthy relationships. If you are a parent to a blossoming teen, consider discussing these crucial aspects of relationships with your child before he or she enters into a relationship: Find a Therapist for Relationships. 1. Define a Healthy Relationship. Be sure to teach your teen about the foundations of a healthy relationship. Explain that a healthy relationship comes from respect, mutual understanding, trust, honesty, communication, and support. A relationship should consist of healthy boundaries that are established and respected by both partners equally. A good partner will accept you as you are, support your personal choices, and praise you for your achievements. A healthy relationship also allows both partners to maintain outside interests and friendships, and does not hinder the personal freedom of either partner. 2. Describe the Different Types of Abuse and Associated Warning Signs. There are many different types of abuse your teen should be aware of before entering into a relationship. These include physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and digital abuse, as well as stalking. Physical abuse occurs when a person uses physical force to harm another, but need not result in visible injuries to qualify. Hitting, kicking, pushing, biting, choking, and using weapons are all forms of physical abuse. Emotional abuse can take the form of insults, humiliation, degradation, manipulation, and intimidation. Emotional abuse can involve forced isolation, coercion, or use of fear or guilt to control or belittle. Sexual abuse involves any act that directly or indirectly impacts a person’s ability to control their own sexual activity and the conditions surrounding it. It can take many forms, including forced sexual activity, using other means of abuse to pressure one into an activity, and restricting access to condoms or birth control. Financial abuse is a form of emotional abuse that uses money or material items as a means of power and control over another person. Digital abuse is any form of emotional abuse using technology. A person may use social media, texting, or other technological means to intimidate, manipulate, harass, or bully someone. Stalking is persistent harassment, monitoring, following, or watching of another person. These behaviors can be difficult for teens to recognize as abuse, as they may sometimes see it as flattering or believe the other person is engaging in such behaviors only out of love. If you’re feeling unsure about how to teach your teen to distinguish between a healthy and unhealthy relationship, or if you would like additional resources on the warning signs of relationship abuse or promoting positive relationships, consider visiting loveisrespect.org. Loveisrespect is a nonprofit organization that works to educate young people about healthy relationships and create a culture free of abuse. Its website offers a wealth of information for teens and parents and provides 24/7 support via phone, text, or chat. 3. Explain the Differences between Lust, Infatuation, and Love. Distinguishing between infatuation and love can be difficult for many adults; imagine how complicated it can be for a teenager who is experiencing many new feelings for the first time. Take a moment to explain to your teen that attraction and desire are physiological responses that can occur separately from emotions. Make sure he or she understands that infatuation is not the same as love. Infatuation may give us butterflies, goose bumps, and that “can’t eat, can’t sleep” type of feeling, but it isn’t the same as love. Love takes time to grow, whereas infatuation may happen almost instantly. 4. Talk Realistically about Sex. While it may be tempting to skip this conversation, it’s in everyone’s best interests to talk to your teen about sex. Ask yourself whether you want your teen to hear this information from you or someone else. On its website, the Mayo Clinic suggests turning the topic into a discussion rather than a presentation. Be sure to get your teen’s point of view and let your teen hear all sides from you. Discuss the pros and cons of sex honestly. Talk about questions of ethics, values, and responsibilities associated with personal or religious beliefs. 5. Set Expectations and Boundaries. It is important to set expectations and boundaries you have now regarding your teen dating rather than defining them through confrontation later. Let your teen know any rules you may have, such as curfews, restrictions on who or how they date, who will pay for dates, and any other stipulations you might have. Give your teen an opportunity to contribute to the discussion, which can help foster trust. 6. Offer Your Support. Be sure to let your teen know you support him or her in the dating process. Tell your teen you can drop off or pick up him or her, lend a compassionate and supportive ear when necessary, or help acquire birth control if that fits with your parenting and personal philosophies. However you intend to support your teen, make sure he or she knows that you are available. 7. Use Gender-Inclusive Language that Remains Neutral to Sexual Orientation. When you open the discussion with your teen about relationships and sexuality, consider using gender-inclusive language that remains neutral to sexual orientation. For example, you might say something like, “Are you interested in finding a boyfriend or girlfriend?” rather than automatically assuming your teen has a preference for the opposite sex. Deliver this language with genuine openness and love. By opening up the possibility of being attracted to both genders right away, you will not only make it easier for your teen to be open with you about his or her sexual orientation, but you’ll likely make your teen feel more comfortable with his or her identity, regardless of who your teen chooses to date. 8. Be Respectful. Most importantly, be respectful when talking to your teen about dating and relationships. If you communicate with your teen in a gentle, nonobtrusive manner that respects his or her individuality, opinions, and beliefs, then your teen will be much more likely to do the same for you. This helps to create a healthy and open line of communication between you and your child and ultimately could improve your teen’s self-esteem. 9. Know When to Ask for Outside Help. There is help available if you’re struggling to talk to your teen about dating and sexuality. In addition to our advice, there are numerous resources available online to help you start a constructive conversation. Additionally, if your teen is experiencing relationship problems and/or your talks about relationships aren’t going well, consider finding a family therapist who can help mediate the conversations and promote emotional intelligence and healthy behaviors. Teaching your kids what it means to be in a healthy relationship is simply too important of a message to leave to chance and may even save his or her life someday. What Parents Need to Know about Teen Dating. What Parents Need to Know about Teen Dating. It’s finally happened. Your teenager has ventured into the world of teen dating, and you’re unsure of where to draw the line as a parent. You probably have a wealth of personal knowledge on how to avoid heartbreak, set personal boundaries, and spot red flags in a relationship, but how do you share all this information with your teenager without pushing them away or making things awkward? You want the best for your child but sometimes it’s hard to impart this information as a parent. Navigating these waters can certainly be difficult. However, by understanding the reality of modern teen dating, educating your teen about appropriate relationship practices, communicating openly about “awkward” topics like sex, and setting proper boundaries, you can ensure your teen has a safe, positive dating experience! And, more importantly, you’ll make sure they know that they can look to you for dating and relationship advice in the future, rather than turning to less reliable sources like their friends or social media. If this seems like a lot, don’t worry! I’ve broken down all the stats and need-to-know teen dating facts in this article. I’ve also provided easily applicable approaches you can use in your own home!

Without further ado, here is the comprehensive parent’s guide to teen dating. Modern Teen Dating: The Situation At Hand. Teen dating in the 21 st Century is wildly different than what many parents remember. If you went to high school in the 80s or 90s, many of the social tools of modern teens didn’t exist yet! Social media and smartphones have revolutionized the way teens interact. Parents who want to be involved in their teen’s dating life need to understand how kids today are flirting, showing affection, and growing closer within virtual spaces. Here are the facts. Kids Meet in Person. Many parents will be relieved by this. According to a 2015 study on teen dating conducted by the Pew Research Center, only about 8% of teenagers in the United States date somebody they first meet online. This means, on average, your teenager is safe from encountering strangers and predators on dating apps—along with other potentially risky situations. Still, there are a number of dating apps that cater to teenagers all parents should be wary of. While these numbers are relatively low, if you believe your teenager is using these apps, it’s important to have a conversation with them about the potential dangers of online teen dating. Don’t get angry—doing so might spur your teen to rebel and double down in their online efforts. Instead, foster an open conversation. Ask why they downloaded the app, what they’re hoping to gain from it, and express your concerns. Every parent will handle this situation differently, but it’s important for your teenager to feel like they can talk to you about these kinds of things without feeling embarrassed or fearing punishment. But They Don’t Pass Notes. According to the same teen dating study from Pew Research, about half of all teenagers express interest in someone by liking, commenting, or messaging directly on social media. Further, teens in the study admitted following and interacting with their significant other on social media made them feel both more emotionally involved and personally connected in their relationship. A large number of teens—47 percent—even said they see social media as a prime place for displaying how much they care about their partner. So what does this mean? It means when your daughter thinks a boy is cute, she isn’t going to get his attention during math class. More likely, she’s going to tag him in a funny meme, comment with a heart-eye emoji on his photos, DM (direct message) him, or reply to his “story.” As a parent trying to understand teen dating, it behooves you to recognize the fact that teens today express their emotions differently, and it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with top social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. Teen dating has moved online. While teens still often establish chemistry in person, much of their affection is now shown in an online space for everyone to see. Virtual spaces play a massive part in modern teen dating, and parents need to understand that while the game hasn’t changed, the playing ground certainly has. Now that you’ve got a better idea of how teens are showing affection and establishing their relationships, it’s time to dive in to one of the trickier aspects of teen dating, one that many parents need help approaching: sex. The Truth About Teenage Sex. Before we talk about strategies for approaching sex and teen dating, we need to set the record straight. Without taking a realistic approach to sex, parents are essentially going in blindfolded. Rather than stay in the dark, we need to face the facts. And the fact is: It’s impossible for you to control your teenager entirely, and there’s a chance they’re going to have sex—whether you know about it or not. In fact, according to a report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 41% of high school students report having sexual intercourse, and most sexually active teens—70% for girls and 56% for boys—only have sex once they’ve already been dating for some time. When it comes to teen dating, sex isn’t usually about hooking up or a status move, but about expressing intimacy with a person they care about. Much as it is for adults. While you can try your hardest to keep your teen from having sex, there’s still a chance your teen won’t listen. So, rather than mandating abstinence (which will likely come off as old school and perhaps even make your teen want to have sex more), it’s better to have open, informative conversations with your teen surrounding sex, teen dating, and everything that comes with it. Here’s the most important ground to cover! How to Practice Safe Sex. This is one of the most crucial jobs you have as your child enters the world of teen dating. Many teenagers are oblivious to the potential dangers of sex and think of pregnancy as the only possible negative outcome. But, realistically, STIs are a much more frequent downside of teenage sex. In fact, about half of all STI cases each year—a number around 10 million—are found in people between the ages of 15 and 24. These include infections like chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhea, and even things as serious as HIV. You can’t always prevent sex in teen dating, but you can keep your teen safe and healthy. Make sure your teen knows the risks of STIs and take proper preventative measures. Stress the importance of wearing a condom and talking to their doctor about getting tested for STIs at appropriate intervals, like if they change sexual partners or experience symptoms. Encourage Birth Control. Teenagers aren’t particularly known for long-term planning, and impulsive decisions when it comes to teen dating they might completely block out the most basic risk: pregnancy. This is another important point for parents to make when they approach teen dating and sex. If your teen is having sex—and even if they aren’t—it’s important for you to teach them the pros and cons of several kinds of birth control. Condoms are by far the most common contraceptive, but they still have an 18% failure rate when it comes to preventing pregnancy. While condoms are a good baseline for preventing pregnancy and STIs during teen dating, there are more effective contraceptives. Talk to your teen and their doctor about potential strategies for preventing pregnancy, such as birth control, IUDs, or contraceptive patches. Beware of Sexting. “Sexting,” or sharing sexually explicit messages and images via text, has become a common practice in teen dating. According to JAMA Pediatrics, about 15% of teens will send a sext at some point, and around 12% of all sexts will be forwarded to other recipients without the sender’s permission. But don’t panic!

Rather than become overly suspicious of your teen’s online behavior, make sure they understand the dangers and repercussions of sexting. It’s often hard to make teens see the big picture when they are excited about teen dating, so be very clear about how “private” photographs often make it past their intended recipient. Let’s Talk About It. Social media, sexting, birth control, STIs, intercourse… these might seem like scary topics to you as a parent, but they’re things you need to discuss with your teen. If you’re nervous or unsure how to broach these touchy subjects, don’t worry!

Most parents are, and I’m here to help. Here are the best ways to set boundaries and have open conversations about teen dating, sex, and relationships. Talk About Relationships, Not Just Sex. Contrary to popular belief, in the world of teen dating, sex is only a small part of the equation. Teens in relationships might have sex—and need to be educated about its realities—but there are other important topics to cover. What does a healthy relationship look like? What should your teen expect from their partner? What boundaries should your teen set with their significant other?

Teen dating sets the bar for your child’s future romantic life, so you want to be sure they know what’s appropriate and healthy in a relationship early on. You don’t want your teen to feel pressured by their significant other, and they need to learn to stand up for themselves in a relationship. Often, important conversations like this provide great segues into more “awkward” talks like sex and STIs. Starting with relationship talks is a great way to approach sex in teen dating. After all, sex is only part of the larger picture! Ask the Right Questions—and Listen!

High schoolers make rash decisions, even when it comes to things as serious as sex and teen dating. Often times, this is because teens think they know more than they really do (it’s called the Illusion of Explanatory Depth), but if you ask the right questions, they might realize just how little they know and be more open to your advice!

For instance, does your teen know the stats behind STIs? Do they know how many of their peers are actually having sex, and how many engage in habits like sexting? Your teen likely thinks the numbers are much higher than they really are!

Ask them to explain what they know—or what they don’t know. Asking questions is also a great way to gauge your teen’s capacity for teen dating. Do you know how they met their significant other?

What do they like about them?

What do they do while they’re together?

What common interests do they have? Asking questions like this, and listening to your teen’s responses instead of interrupting with unsolicited advice, will make your teen feel like you truly care about and accept their relationship. This is a key component in my next piece of teen dating advice, which is perhaps the most important one… Encourage Honesty and Set Boundaries. This is the big one. If you want to be actively involved in your teen’s dating life, you need to make sure they feel comfortable sharing intimate details with you. If your teen fears getting in trouble or being judged by you for their choices, they’re going to sneak around behind your back and engage in risky behaviors (like sex, sexting, etc.) without you knowing about it. This is the last thing any parent wants. So, what can you do to stop it?

Let your teen know you’re on their side. Early on, establish an attitude of trust when it comes to teen dating. Rather than threatening your teen with punishments or relying on scare tactics to enforce your dating rules (which won’t work), explain that you have expectations, but you understand they might be hard to follow. Let your teen know you want them to come to you with any questions they have about sex, relationships, and teen dating. It might be awkward to start, and your teen might not have questions right away, but knowing they can come to you will prove invaluable down the line. It’s also vital to set boundaries with teen dating. Discuss what you are and aren’t comfortable with as a parent, and what actions will and won’t receive consequences. If your teenager has their boyfriend or girlfriend over at the house, maybe let them be in your child’s room together, but leave the door open. You might allow late-night dates, but set a curfew. It’s a good idea to have a pre-set policy for what happens if these rules are violated. Also, having your teen explain the teen dating rules back to you will likely help them empathize and accept the consequences more readily. Establishing this trust and setting these boundaries will take time, but the most important thing is for you to approach teen dating life with a sense of empathy. The Takeaways. There you have it!

The all-encompassing guide to teen dating. It’s a lot of information to take in, so here’s a quick recap of the most important points: Modern teens show affection online just as much as in-person Sex, STIs, sexting, and contraceptives are things parents need to address realistically Asking teens questions will help them accept advice on teen dating Relationship advice is just as important as sex advice Parents must establish trust and boundaries when it comes to their teen’s dating life. Remember, teen dating is something you should embrace, not fear. Emotional intimacy is one of life’s great gifts, and can seriously benefit your teen and make their life better. Be the person your child wants to talk to. I hope you’ve found this article helpful and that you feel more comfortable entering the world of teen dating! With the proper guidance from you—their parent—your teen can reap all the benefits of a positive, happy relationship! What Parents Need to Know about Teen Dating Violence. As a parent and mental health professional in today’s society, I believe it is important to be aware of the ever-evolving risks that may impact the well-being of our children. One such risk that can adversely impact the well-being of our children is teen dating violence. Dating is often viewed as a rite of passage as our children get older. It’s an exciting milestone, but it’s important to be aware of the potential risks that are associated with teen dating so you can recognize the signs of any abuse and can help prepare your teen to do the same. Dating violence is defined as a pattern of violent behavior that someone uses against their significant other. Dating violence doesn’t only happen in person; it can also happen electronically. 4 Types of Dating Violence. There are four types of behavior that are most common in dating violence: physical violence, sexual violence, psychological aggression, and stalking. Physical violence : hitting, kicking or using some other means to inflict physical injury. Sexual violence : sexual assault, unwanted sexual touching, unwanted sexting or posting unwanted sexual pictures on social media platforms. Psychological aggression : name calling or exerting control over another person. Stalking : repeated, unwanted attention or contact by a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of a loved one. Dating Violence Statistics. According to the Centers for Disease Control, teen dating violence is common and affects millions of teenagers in the United States yearly. The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey indicate the following: Around 1 in 11 female and 1 in 15 male high school students, report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year. Approximately 1 in 9 female and 1 in 36 male high school students report having experienced sexual dating violence. 26 percent of women and 15 percent of men were victims of sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime and first experienced these or other forms of violence by that partner before age 18. Signs a Teen is Experiencing Teen Dating Violence. Increased symptoms of anxiety and depression Increased engagement in unhealthy and risky behaviors like using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol Increased antisocial behaviors like lying, theft, bullying, or hitting Thoughts of suicide or self-harm Suicidal attempts or engaging in other self-harming behaviors Engagement in behaviors that are associated with eating disorders Increased isolation from family and friends Unexplained bruises or injuries Other unusual or uncharacteristic behavior. How to Help Teens Recognize Dating Violence. 1. Talk with your children. It’s never too early to have conversations with your children about basic relationship etiquette, both for in person and online relationships. With the constant access to technology, teens are engaging in intimate partner relationships at earlier ages. Teaching your children about self-respect, self-love, self-confidence, and healthy relationship boundaries in their pre-adolescent years may prove paramount in establishing a healthy foundation to prevent their engagement in unhealthy relationships in the future. 2. Model healthy behaviors. Modeling healthy relationship behaviors, sharing with your children unhealthy relationship behaviors that you witnessed as teenager, and sharing lessons learned are also ways to teach your children about the aspects of healthy vs. unhealthy relationships. 3. Teach your children the warning signs. Educate your children so that they will be able to recognize an unhealthy or abusive relationship. mon warning signs that your teen can look for in their partner’s behavior include: Extreme displays of jealousy or insecurity Unexpected and extreme anger outbursts Pressuring a partner to engage in unwanted activities (sex, drugs, etc.) Controlling tendencies Trying to prevent their partner from socializing or hanging out with other people Tracking their partner’s whereabouts and invading their privacy Bullying and threatening physical harm to their partner or their partner’s loved ones Blaming their partner for their problems or displays of abusive behavior. 4. Be available to your teenager. Affirm that if your teen finds themselves in an unhealthy relationship, they can always come to you. Reassure them that there is nothing for them to be ashamed of and that you are always there to offer non-judgmental support. How to Get Support If You Need It. If you suspect that your teenager is engaging in an unhealthy relationship and is being subjected to teen dating violence, there are several courses of action you can take to solicit support: Contact a local mental health professional to gain access to individual and/or community support resources. Contact your local law enforcement agency immediately if your child feels that their life or physical well-being is in danger. Contact the National Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 (or TTY 1-866-331-8454 for the hearing impaired). Common Dating Rules Parents Set for Christian Teens. Many parents set rules for their Christian teens about dating. While setting rules is a good idea, it is important for parents to think through the rules that they do set. Parents need to know why they are setting the rules, and they also need to discuss the rules openly with their children. Here are some of the most common dating rules and how they can be used most effectively to guide teens through the world of dating: 1) No Dating Until You Are ____ Years Old. Pros: You can set an age where most teens have a good maturity level and are able to think independently. Cons: Not all teens mature at the same rate, so even though your teen comes to that age, he or she may still not be able to handle it. The Solution: Try using that age as a "review" age. Tell your teen that you will talk about dating when he or she is ____ years old. Then you can sit down and have a conversation to see if your teen is ready. 2) You Must Date a Fellow Christian. Pros: The Bible says Christians should be yoked to fellow believers. If a teen is dating another Christian, there is a greater likelihood that they will remain abstinent and supportive of one another. Cons : Some people say they are Christians, but they are not necessarily Godly in their actions. Setting this rule alone can breed lying and inappropriate activities. The Solution: You can set the rule, but also leave it open for your approval. Make sure you meet the dating partner. Don't grill him or her about their faith, but get to know him or her to evaluate whether or not you think this teen shares your child's values. 3) Dates Must Be In Public Places. Pros: Dating that occurs in public places prevents temptation from getting the better of teenagers. They are always being watched by other people. Cons: Just saying that the dating has to occur in public places does not necessarily ensure that the people around your Christian teen will hold him or her accountable. Also, teens sometimes don't stay in one place for an entire date. The Solution: There are several solutions to this issue. You can try driving your teen to and from the place where the date will happen. You can also require that your teen goes on dates where other Christians will be present. 4) Double Dates Are Mandatory. Pros: Going on a date with another couple helps hold your teen responsible and resist temptation. Christian teens face a lot of the same temptations as other young people, so having friends there can be helpful. Cons: The other couple may not share the same values as your Christian teen. They may encourage inappropriate activity or leave early. The Solution: Encourage your teen to call you if the other couple leaves or does anything that compromises your teen's situation. Also, try to meet the other couples so that you can feel more comfortable about your teen associating with him or her. 5) No Sex Until You Are Married. Pros: Letting your teen know that you expect purity is important to tell your teen. Your direct statement will be in the back of their head, even if they seem to scoff at your statement. Cons: Demanding that your child waits until marriage to have sex without explaining why may backfire. Using a punishment approach (the infamous, "If you have sex, you will go to Hell" approach) may only make your teen more curious. The Solution: Spend some time discussing sex with your teen so that he or she understands why God wants teens to wait until marriage. Having a clear understanding of why they should wait can help teens make better decisions. 6) Avoid Situations That Increase Temptation. Pros: Telling your teen to be careful when holding hands, kissing, or touching can help him or her avoid situations that can end up going too far. It also helps teens identify early when a situation is becoming dangerous. Cons: Just making the blanket demand can make it easy for teens to rebel or go too far without understanding. Teens may also not understand what to do when they end up in a tempting situation. The Solution: Discuss temptation openly with your teen. You don't have to divulge all of your temptations, but explain how temptation is normal and everybody faces it. Also, go over ways to avoid temptation, but also ways to cope when faced with it. Be sure to include what "too far" means and how to be safe from things like date rape when in tempting situations. While all of these rules are appropriate, it will be easier for your teen to follow your rules if they understand where the rules come from. Don't just cite Scripture -- explain how it applies. If you feel uncomfortable doing it on your own, bring in another parent, youth worker, or youth pastor to help.


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