17 Safe Dating Tips for Teens and Parents

dating advice for teen

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

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When it comes to teen dating, a lot has changed over the years, especially with the advent of social media and online dating apps. In some ways, dating is a little riskier than it was years ago because of the ease of meeting people online and the ability connect with strangers, but in other ways it's safer because that same technology can also provide a safety net.

If you're like most parents, you probably are a little unnerved by the prospect of your teen dating. But with the right approach and a few guidelines, you can establish an environment where your teen can safely explore the dating world.

Likewise, if you equip your teen with the right tools, they also can take steps to ensure they are dating safely too—a skill that will especially benefit them as they head off to college.

Dating Guidelines for Parents

When it comes to keeping your teen safe in the dating world, it's important to establish a few guidelines and boundaries. By doing so, you are creating an environment designed to keep your teen safe, while still allowing them some freedom to date. Here are the most important things to do that can help.

Enforce a Curfew

Establishing and enforcing a curfew seems simple enough, but you would be surprised how many parents don't take this step as their teen starts to date. Having a curfew is one of the simplest ways to create boundaries and ensure your teen has a set time when the date will end.

When establishing a curfew, consider your community's guidelines. Many communities already have an established curfew for high school students, so many parents just use those guidelines as their child's curfew.

Establish Ground Rules

It's important to establish some ground rules for your teen as they start to date. Think about your expectations and then communicate those to your child. For instance, many parents tell their teen that they are not allowed at a partner's home unless the parents are there.

You also may want your teen to let you know if their plans change and they're going to be somewhere else. In other words, if your teen was planning to attend a party but then they decide to leave and go see a movie instead, they should text you and let you know.

Other possible ground rules include setting age ranges for potential dates or limiting where they can go on dates. Communicate your expectations to your teen, but also allow them some input. Together, you can come up with solutions that work for both of you.

Meet Your Child's Date

Most teens balk at the idea that they have to introduce their date to their parents. But when it comes to safe dating, this step should not be overlooked. By meeting your teen's date, you can get an idea of who they are spending time with and start to build a relationship with them, too.

This also serves as a safety net in case your teen wants to meet or go on a date with someone they met online. By requiring that you meet who they are dating, you can hopefully head off any dangerous situations.

You may also want to consider inviting your teen's date to hang out in your home. Encourage your teen to invite them over for dinner, to hang out on Friday and watch a movie, or to stop by for pizza after a football game.

These casual interactions allow you the opportunity to get to know who your teen is dating and see how they treat one another.

Be Your Child's Standing Excuse

Sometimes teens get into situations where they are in over their head, or their date turns out to be different than they expected. Perhaps their date takes them to a party where there are drugs and alcohol.

Or maybe your teen's date is getting abusive, has had too much to drink, or is pressuring them for sex. If you're their standing excuse, they can blame you when they have to leave or when you come to get them.

Some parents establish this escape plan for their teens and promise to pick them up without asking questions or pressuring them for details until they're ready to talk. By doing this, teens feel less fearful of getting in trouble and are more likely to reach out for help. They also know they can count on you to be there.

Some parents even establish a code word or code text that alerts them that they need help. If the teen uses this word during a call or texts the word or number, the parent calls with an excuse as to why they need to come get their teen and then they show up.

This built in escape plan makes it easier for your teen to leave without having to deal with peer pressure.

Know Where Your Child Is Going

When your teen is heading out for a date, it's important to know where your teen is going, who they are going with, and what they plan to do. While parental control apps like Life 360 and Find My iPhone are useful for tracking your teen should you need to get in touch with them, technology is not foolproof.

Phone batteries die, service can be limited, or phones can be turned off. If you needed to get to your teen in a hurry, you need to know where they will be.

This means having an address and a name of where they will be, especially if they are going to someone's home and not to a public place like a movie theatre, coffee shop, or restaurant.

Revisit the Difficult Topics

Most likely, you have already talked about sex. You have probably even talked about the risks associated with sexual assault and teen dating violence. As awkward as it is to have these difficult conversations with your teen, you need to have them again.

Your teen needs to be reminded of how to stay safe and what risks they are facing. No matter how much they know and respect their partner, they need to be aware that dating is not completely risk free. You would be remiss to skip or avoid touching on these topics again.

Follow Up After the Date

Although you don't have to have a conversation as soon as your teen walks in the door, you should take some time at some point after the date to follow up. Ask your teen how the date went. Then, wait for their response. Listen carefully and try not to interrupt.

If your teen seems reluctant to share much information, don't worry. Some teens are more private than others. You can close out the conversation by asking them if they think they will go out again or if they have any questions or concerns they want to talk about.

Remind your teen that you are there for them should they have anything they want to discuss, but also allow them some privacy.

Dating Tips for Teens

Teens also play a part in staying safe while dating. For this reason, you should share some tips with them on how they can take responsibility for their safety and ensure they are creating safe dating environments. Here are some things every teen should consider doing.

Keep Your Parents in the Loop

Dating is a big responsibility that requires smart decision-making and maturity. It also is a privilege and not a right. So, if your teen wants to ensure they don't have this privilege taken away, they should make sure they are communicating with you about dating.

In addition to following the rules and guidelines you establish, they also should be sharing who they are spending time with and where they are going. When teens start getting secretive, this should serve as a warning sign that something is amiss and as a parent, you should start to investigate.

Consider Group Dates

While every dating couple wants some alone time, this is a huge responsibility fraught with all types of risks. Instead, teens should consider group dates—at least initially—and reserve the one-on-one dates for when they are older and more mature.

Of course, parents can require double dating, but it is better if teens choose this option for themselves. Not only is a group date generally safer because there is a group of people, but it sometimes eliminates the pressures to engage in sex.

Meet in a Public Place

Generally speaking, having dates in public are safer than being alone at someone's house or alone with someone at a park. Plus, it keeps pressures to minimum if they are having their dates at restaurants, coffee shops, bowling alleys, sporting events, and other similar locations.

Encourage your teen to go on dates that are fun and active like ice skating or water parks. There they can have fun with their date while not having to deal with the pressure that comes with parties and movie nights.

Talk About Consent

As uncomfortable as it might be, you need to remind your teen what consent is as well as the importance of being sure that both people in the dating relationship are on the same page no matter what they are doing.

This conversation is important, especially if your teens appears to be getting serious about the person they are dating. In addition to preventing misunderstandings, talking about consent also is an important part of preventing sexual abuse, sexual assault, and even rape. So, don't skip this conversation.

Refrain From Sexting

The risks and consequences of sexting are significant. Not only can teens get into legal trouble, but they also can share or receive photos that they later regret.

Too many times, sexually explicit photos are shared with a partner and then later used as a weapon when the relationship ends. Make sure your teen knows that they should never engage in sexting. Doing so, puts them at risk in a number of different ways.

Get and Keep Track of Your Own Drinks

When attending parties or other group functions, it's very important that teens take care of their own drinks. This means getting their own drinks and keeping track of their drinks once they have one. They should never leave their drink unattended. The risk is too high that someone could put a drug in their drink.

The same can happen if they allow someone to get them a drink, including even a bottle of water. As nice as it might seem for someone to offer to get your teen a drink, they should politely refuse and get their own drinks.

Reach Out for Help

Empower your teen with the self-confidence needed to reach out for help if they are ever in a situation that is dangerous or makes them uncomfortable. Even if they are simply having a bad time, they should know that they can call you at anytime and that you will come pick them up.

Having this type of understanding and establishing this type of trust with your teen is perhaps the most important part of creating a safe dating environment.

Addressing Special Challenges

Dating is a complicated process, especially for teens. Consequently, even with the best laid plans, challenges and problems can crop up. For this reason, you and your teen need to know how navigate each of these potentially complicated and sometimes dangerous situations.

Here's an overview of some of the dating challenges your teen may face.

Learn to Recognize Dating Abuse

One of the biggest risks that teens face when dating is dating abuse. For this reason, it's vital that both you and your teen can identify the signs of teen dating abuse and take the appropriate steps to ensure they are safe.

In short, an abusive relationship usually begins with things like extreme jealousy, possessiveness, control issues, and excessive texting. From there, dating abuse can escalate into more dangerous behaviors and in extreme cases can lead to physical violence and stalking.

Be sure you and your teen familiarize yourself with the signs of dating abuse as well as the cycle of abuse so that you can address it right away should it occur.

Get Familiar With Online Dating Apps

While some online dating apps like Tinder allow teens to use them, they are not without risk. For this reason, parents need to talk to their teens about the risks associated with online dating apps such catfishing scams and adults posing as teens.

If you decide to allow your teen to use online dating apps, be sure you establish some strict guidelines with the purpose of keeping them safe. For instance, some parents stress that their teens cannot meet someone they met online alone but instead must have their parent chaperone the first few meetings.

Accept Your Teen's Partner

It's bound to happen—your teen starts dating someone and you don't approve. Unless your concerns are rooted in something tangible like the partner is abusive or too old for your teen, you might have to ride out the relationship.

For this reason, do what you can to accept your teen's decision to date this person. Try inviting them to your home and getting to know them on a deeper level. You also should actively look for positive qualities and be supportive as best you can.

Unless your teen is in danger or at risk in some way, there is probably not a lot you can do when you don't like who your teen is dating.

A Word From Verywell

Allowing your teen to date can feel nerve-wracking, especially in the beginning. But by keeping the lines of communication open, being aware of the dangers, and establishing some ground rules, your teen is likely to navigate the dating world without too many issues.

Of course, you may have to deal with a breakup or a broken heart or two along the way, but teen dating is a natural process that young people go through. So try not to stress out about it too much. It's a perfectly normal aspect of teen life.

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