Connecting with friends, learning how to handle increased independence, and building relationships are some of the reasons teens date. Dating norms can vary by age, gender, culture, and country. Talk with your parents when making decisions about healthy and safe dating.
Remember: Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23).
The trend of teens doing things together in groups has helped students stay safe. But during those times when you want to break out of the crowd and have some time alone together, how can you make sure it's going to be a good experience? Here are some safety thoughts:
-Consider double dating with one of your friends for the first few times when seeing someone you don't know well.
-When you don't know someone well, resist the temptation to go with the person in his or her car to a party, the movies, or another event after your initial meeting. Instead, if you decide to follow dinner with a walk around the outdoor mall or a visit to your favorite coffee shop, meet the person there. For first dates, you might want to resist the temptation to prolong a date by having a set ending time. Let your parents meet the guy or girl soon-and trust their instincts.
-When going out with someone you don't know well, make sure your parents or a friend know where you're going, others going with you, and what time you will return. If plans change during the evening, give your parents or friend a call to let them know what's happening. Check in when you return home-it's not just a matter of being responsible or being grown up-it's a matter of safety.
-Don't necessarily believe everything a person says about himself or herself. For instance, you may think, "Well, he's told me about this great job he has, and he wouldn't have a job like that if he weren't trustworthy." While most people wouldn't lie about such things, it's best to not believe everything you hear or to trust too much until you know from experience that a person is trustworthy.
-If you feel uncomfortable at all, get out of the situation. Your safety is more important than not hurting another person's feelings. Trust your instincts. If something feels odd, it probably is.
-If a friend has some hesitations about a person you're going out with, keep an open mind. It may be wise to trust your friend's instincts.
-Don't ignore stalkers. According to the Stalking Resource Center, 3.4 million people are stalked by someone else each year. Most of those are 18-to 24-year-olds and 90 percent of stalkers are someone the person knows.
-If you feel uncomfortable with unwanted attention from someone, or you suspect you're being stalked, tell a parent, friend, counselor, or other person. Someone needs to be watching your back, and others knowing about the situation may also be able to intercede. Also, document-write down-the times and situations in case you ever need to file a police report.
Dating Around the World
In the U.S., during the high school years, the trend now is for a lot of social interaction to be done in group settings rather than on individual dates. In college, young adults tend to do more individual dating. What is dating like for teens in the rest of the world?
Teens don't date much. Marriages are arranged by parents. Boys and girls attend separate schools and have few opportunities to associate. Girls and boys have different curfews. Girls have to be in at 7:00 P.M. and guys at 11:00 P.M.
Most teens go out in large groups until they're in their late teens. Girls often ask the boys out and pay for the dates. Popular dates include dinner parties, barbeques, and the beach.
Central and South America
Teens generally date in large groups.
Dating is usually a group event.
Large groups-two to three dozen teens-do things like attending movies together.
Italy and Switzerland
Slumber parties are popular events for group dating.
Japan and South Korea
Dating usually begins in college, when only boys do the asking and pay for the dates.
Teens often join a pandilla-a club or a group of friends with the same interests. Individual couples date and either the boy or the girl may issue the invitation. The two often split the cost of the evening.
Teens and Dating in the U.S.
- 12 percent of teens aged 12 to 17 are in a relationship with someone they've been dating for more than a year.
- 57 percent of teens say they regularly go out on dates.
- 38 percent of teen girls say they have a boyfriend, while 29 % of teen boys say they have a girlfriend.
- 83 percent of teen girls say they want to get married, compared to 73 % of boys.
- 53 percent of dating teens say their relationship causes them stress.
-American Demographics, June 1, 2003
While technology helps those who are interested in each other stay in touch, it also causes problems for daters according to a Liz Claiborne Inc. study (2007).
- 71 percent of teens say boyfriends and girlfriends spread rumors about them on cell phones and social networking sites.
- 68 percent have problems with a romantic interest sharing embarrassing pictures and videos via cell phones and computer.
- 24 percent of teens communicate with a boyfriend or girlfriend hourly between midnight and 5:00 A.M. with their cell phone through talking or texting.
- 30 percent of teens say they are texted 10-30 times an hour by a boyfriend or girlfriend asking where they are, what they're doing, or who they're with.
Signs That a Dating Relationship Is Becoming Abusive
-One dater gradually tries to keep the other from seeing friends and family. At first it may seem romantic that the person wants you to himself or herself. But it's not. Healthy relationships accept family and friends and encourage you to have others in your life.
-An abusive date often can be very mean after a while, telling the boy or girl that he or she is stupid, is lucky to be dating, couldn't get anyone, etc. But this kind of talk can be so subtle and gradual that the person being abused doesn't see it happening. And to complicate matters, in these kinds of situations, when the abuser is nice, he or she is so wonderful that the abused thinks problems are his or her fault
-No unwanted physical contact is acceptable. Slaps, pinches, and punches are not playful, fun, or normal.
-Never accept a dating partner criticizing you in public-even in a joking manner. Remember that any negative signs a person shows are only going to get worse during a serious relationship or marriage.
-If another person starts to try to control not only who you see, but where you go, how you dress, and other elements of your life that probably doesn't mean he or she just intensely cares about you. Control is a form of abuse.
Jeanette Gardner Littleton is a freelance writer and editor from Kansas City.
Holiness Today, Mar/Apr 2011