Teens and tweens are dating at a younger age than ever before, with children as young as 10 years old in the dating scene. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, will tweens be spending the romantic holiday together? Perhaps over a nice, romantic dinner for two, or maybe even an evening out at the movie theater? No…chances are, you won’t see any young lovebirds out that night; they’ll be texting and sending Valentines via Facebook.
As a parent, that may make you breathe a sigh of relief. Who wants their 12-year-old daughter spending the romantic night out and alone with their new boyfriend? No one, and it turn out, neither do they.
Nearly half of 11-14 year-olds have had what they consider to be boyfriends or girlfriends, according to a 2008 study of 1,043 tweens, and 60% of adolescents think parents should let middle-schoolers date (that’s anywhere from 11 to 14-year-olds). But it doesn’t exactly mean what you think. They aren’t spending intimate time together and most of them don’t even see eachother face to face! They communicate mostly via text and Facebook, avoiding awkward in-person interactions.
According to the Wallstreet Journal, a long relationship in middleschool only lasts about a month, with some only dating for a week.
Anthony Conselatore didn’t tell his parents the first time he asked a girl out, at age 12. “I was nervous, and we really didn’t talk much while we were dating,” says the Potomac Falls, Va., teen. “We’d see each other in the hallway for five minutes, then go to classes and not talk to each other again until the next week.” Within a couple of months, he adds, “she fell in love with a different guy, and she broke up with me,” he says. “It happens.”
Now 14, Anthony is “more than friends” with a girl at school. When he sees her in the hall, “we give each other a hug and go on with our lives,” he says. But they fire more than 300 text messages back and forth each day. If they do go out, they go in a pack of friends because it helps avoid “that awkward moment, when we’re staring at each other for five minutes, not saying anything,” Anthony says.
While that’s all cute and innocent enough, once kids gets a little bit older and out of that ‘tween’ stage, there are heavier pressures placed on relationships, and sometimes violence. We hardly ever hear about teen dating violence, despite it being more common than domestic violence, but the statistics are astounding.
According to the CDC:
■ Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.
■ One in four teen girls in a relationship says she has been threatened with violence or experienced verbal abuse, and 13 percent of teens say they were physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
■ Forty-five percent of girls know a friend or peer who has been pressured into having intercourse or oral sex.
The fact is, kids are going to date, whether its via Facebook, texting, or face-to-face interactions. Be open and honest with your tweens, and always be on the look-out for signs of abuse – both physical and emotional.
For more information on teen dating violence, visit http://www.teendvmonth.org/dating-violence-resources