A Few Things Every Parent Should Know About Teens and Dating
Today’s teens don’t date like their parents did. Remember when a boy asked a girl out on a date, rang the doorbell, met her parents, and the young couple went to dinner and a movie? Remember when girls wore their boyfriend’s class ring on a chain around their neck to signify that they were “going steady”? This type of dating no longer really exists. Not only are the current generation’s dating methods very different, it is quite possible for your teenager to be “dating” someone without you even knowing it. Here are a few things that every parent of a teenager should know about their children’s dating culture:
In the past, dating followed a fairly common formula. A boy asked a girl out, they went on a date (and often met the girl’s parents when picking her up), and after a few dates, they called one another boyfriend or girlfriend. Teens nowadays date in many different ways with very few expectations of how a relationship should develop. Parents may not even realize their teen is dating because they only notice an increase in texting. Teens are more comfortable with communicating online, hanging out in groups, and becoming sexually active quickly.
Group dates, many times, replace traditional dates, especially early in a relationship. Group outings can be a very positive thing by: giving teens the opportunity to develop friendships with lots of people; removing the awkwardness that teens might feel when they’re alone on a date; and offering your teen the support of friends if things are not going well with their date. However, group dynamics can also present problems because peer pressure can be much stronger within a group. If a lot of kids are doing something questionable, the few who feel it’s wrong may have trouble speaking up.
What’s Your Number?
When parents dated, a couple exchanged their phone numbers and then waited for the phone to ring. In today’s culture, teens exchange phone numbers only so they can text each other. Texting can present a few problems:
- Teens do not have the opportunity to read body language, which can result in miscommunication.
- Teens can flirt and banter at all hours of the day and night, leaving teens with very little downtime.
- Teens use texting to spread the news about parties and plans to sneak out after curfew, both of which are ways teens meet with their boyfriend or girlfriend unsupervised.
- Teens are more likely to say something they would never say to someone’s face.
- Teens are much more likely to engage in sexting – naked pictures are very much a part of today’s dating culture.
Social media has changed the entire landscape of dating. After meeting someone they are interested in, teens will quickly ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ each other on a variety of social media profiles, such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Kik. Most teens do not use Facebook as their primary connection point, so parents cannot limit their monitoring to one form of media. For example, Snapchat lets teens send each other photos that disappear after 10 seconds, which can prove to be a temptation to an adolescent. In addition, parents should be aware that some teens use dating apps to meet people, and most of them are geared towards adults.
The females of this generation are not as shy or modest as their parents were. On the positive side, there is no expectation that girls must wait for a boy to ask her out. Girls are just as likely to ask a boy out. Additionally, instead of boys being expected to pay for the entire date, it is much more common for dating teens to split the bill or take turns paying. On the negative side, girls have also become a lot more demanding with their boyfriends and may, in fact, be instigating sexual activity. Many boys feel less masculine by turning down a girl offering sex, and so they may go further than they wanted.
Many times, when we think about the times teen couples became tempted to get “hot and heavy,” it was in the evening, perhaps in that small amount of time between when the movie ended and when curfew was over. This, too, has changed. Teens are hanging out together right after school, when many parents are still at work. Studies show that teens are more likely to have sex when there is no after-school supervision.
Teens frequently refer to “hooking up” with the opposite sex. This has a wide variety of meanings – some teens simply mean kissing, while others mean sex. In the generation of parents dating, there was an expectation that a couple would date for awhile before engaging in sexual contact, and the contact would only progress slowly. This is no longer true. While some teens prefer these traditional ideas, many other teens feel very comfortable being sexually active. In addition to being a more sexually active generation, current teens are more likely to engage in oral sex. Many teens think that oral sex is not a big deal and is safer than sexual intercourse. It’s important that parents let their teens know that oral sex can have a major impact on their self-esteem and that, while it does avoid pregnancy, oral sex does not protect them from sexually transmitted diseases.
With this information in hand, parents should talk to their teens about the pitfalls of today’s dating environment and should establish rules that will minimize any problems. We have written many previous blogs on teen dating issues that you might want to read for advice: