Making Teen Dating Safer For Kids
By Sarah Fader
Updated December 12, 2018
Reviewer Kristina Ellen
In today's world, there are some ways in which teens can meet each other, from school and parties to online chat forums. This is a good thing because they can easily widen their social circles.
However, it is also important to be cautious and to teach them to be cautious of the people they befriend. They may still be naïve and may not realize when the people they are meeting may be a bad influence at best, or dangerous at worst. You and your teen can and should take every precaution to ensure that your child does not fall victim to dating violence.
Teen Dating: Meeting People Online
Meeting people online does not carry the same stigma that it used to, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't still be careful. If your teen wants to meet someone that they have been speaking to online, then s/he should do so either with a group of friends or with at least one friend. And before they meet, make sure that you ask your teens as many questions as is necessary to determine whether the person is who he or she says they are.
Of course, there is some level of trust involved, as you need to be able to trust your teen to tell you the truth and to trust his or her gut as well. And you can never know for sure just who they're meeting because some people are exceptionally good at lying to bait unsuspecting teenagers. It is for this reason that bringing a friend or a group of friends along is a very good idea indeed.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
It is crucial that the lines of communication remain open between a teen and his or her parents. The parents should always know when the teen is going on a date, and who they are going on a date with. The parents should be aware of where their child is going, and setting a curfew isn't the worst idea either.
Yes, curfews can be annoying, but if you're a teen reading this, imagine your parents' position: you say you'll be home by 9:30, and it's 10:00 and you're still not home yet. You could have gotten into a car accident, or be in some other such trouble that may render you unable to call or text your parents. Your parents are not mind-readers, so they had no way of knowing that you're just having a good time and forgot to check your watch. If your child came strolling in the door at 11:00 after you spent an hour and a half worried sick, you'd be pretty upset, too.
Teens should text their parents when they're on their way home. This way, if the parents know that the teen is at the movies, which are 20 minutes away, then they know to expect the teen within a half-hour or so. If it has been an hour, and the teen is still not home, then the parents are within their right to worry and to try to contact the teen's friends and friends' parents to find out, if possible, what is going on.
Stay Away From Drugs And Alcohol
Drugs are always illegal, and alcohol is illegal for minors. Despite that, though, some teens try alcohol before they are legally allowed to drink, and take drugs in spite of their being illegal. Aside from the illegality, teens should avoid drugs and alcohol because they take away the teens ability to make a rational decision. This can lead to impaired decision-making, which will encourage the teen to take risks that he or she normally wouldn't take.
For instance, a teen who has been drinking or taking drugs may think nothing of getting into the car with his or her friends, who have also been drinking or taking drugs. If they end up in an accident, then the teen can end up badly injured, or worse. Meanwhile, if the teen was sober, he or she might never have agreed in a million years to get in the car. But alcohol and drugs often do our thinking for us, and that never ends well.
Similarly, a teen who has been drinking or doing drugs may end up in a compromising sexual situation. His or her peers may take advantage of the situation, leading to unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases.
While it's naïve to think that teenagers won't drink, and it certainly is not encouraged, the temptation is still there, especially when they're out at a party and all their friends are "having a good time." However, the best way to avoid ending up hurt or suffering some other such negative consequence is for teens to avoid drinking and to take drugs whatsoever.
Going Out Vs. Staying In When Teens Date
After the teen has met the person he or she is dating with a friend or group of friends, and everything seems to be okay, then he or she may want to consider going out on a date along with that person. In this case, it is always a better idea to go out to a public place with that person. Some good ideas for a date include:
- Getting coffee at a local coffee shop
- Spending time at the mall
- Going out to eat at a restaurant (actually sitting in to eat, rather than a drive-thru)
- Going to the movies
- Going bowling
Until they know each other well, like over the course of months or even a year, the couple should not be opting for hanging out at each other's houses when no one else is home or having make-out sessions in a secluded spot.
And, of course, if your teen feels like something is wrong, and he or she is uncomfortable with what is being proposed, then s/he should be made to feel comfortable with calling you to pick him or her up. Have a friend drive him or her home, or leave the situation if s/he is capable of driving a car.
Signs Of Teen Dating Violence
It is important to be aware of the signs of dating violence, else your teen may be the victim of abusive behavior and may not even realize what that is. For instance, if his or her boyfriend or girlfriend is prone to angry outbursts, or if he or she tries to belittle your teen or drive a wedge between your teen and his or her family, then that person is bad news.
Similarly, if the person likes to blame everyone else for his or her problems, or if he or she threatens to hurt your teen at any point (or, worse, actually does), then these are red flags, and your teen should seek help.
If you are a teen reading this, and you don't feel comfortable turning to your friends or family for help, then you can always turn to another adult that you trust. It might be your school counselor or a coach. It might be a social worker or one of your teachers. Failing that, you can always reach out to one of our counselors or a domestic abuse hotline. You are not alone, and there are people out there who can help you.
Teen Dating Violence Facts
Teen dating violence may not seem like a huge issue at first, but it is more of a widespread problem than you may realize. For instance:
- About 1.5 million high school-age boys and girls admit to being physically abused by someone with whom they were in a romantic relationship.
- 50 percent of young adults who are victims of sexual or physical abuse will attempt suicide.
- Females are more likely to be abused by their partners, especially those between the ages of 16 and 24.
- Only about a third of those teens who were involved in an abusive relationship told someone about it.
- Teens in abusive relationships often suffer long-term issues as a result, such as suicidal or violent thoughts, eating disorders, and alcoholism.
Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month
Every February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). TDVAM was established to help raise awareness of the abuse that teens and twenty-somethings often face in their romantic relationships.
In addition to physical, verbal, and emotional abuse, dating violence also extends to digital abuse as well. So, yes, trashing someone on social media is considered a form of abuse - and this means that more of us are victims of dating violence than may even realize it.
Sadly, dating violence is common for teens and young adults, with one in three teens experiencing some form of abuse in a romantic relationship before they even reach adulthood. About half of all college-age women have reported experiencing dating violence at some point in their lifetimes.
Are you a victim of dating violence? Are you the parent of a teenager who is just starting to date, and you're worried that he or she will end up in an abusive relationship? Consider reaching out to one of our counselors, who are available 24/7 to offer guidance and support.