Top Dating Safety Tips for Teens (and Parents!)


Starting to date is exciting but can be a little scary - here are the top ways both parents and teens can help prevent dating violence

Top dating safety tips

Statistics show that the average teen is 16 when they’re ready to date one-on-one. And unfortunately, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, a 2016 study showed that about 69 percent of both boys and girls had experienced some sort of physical or emotional abuse in the past year while dating. That’s a sobering fact.

One way to increase safety and decrease stress about dating is to make sure that the family is on the same page about safety.

Parent Guidelines: Communication and Trust

Let me start by saying that communication and trust are everything.

As a parent, the best thing you can do for your child is to talk with them, not at them. Seems obvious, right? Wrong. Many parents don’t know how to talk with their child without judgment or direction, instead of talking to, or at, them. The problem is that if your child doesn’t feel like they can talk to you without these behaviors, they won’t talk to you at all.

It is never too early to start building this type of relationship. Start small with honest answers to simple questions. That way your child will learn to trust that you are respecting their need for open, honest communication. This foundation will be invaluable when it comes time for your teen to date.

When they’re ready to start dating, it is important to determine some guidelines. There are also some rules for parents that are helpful in navigating teen dating.

Curfew

Set and stick to a curfew. The experts agree that for anyone under 18, curfew should be no later than midnight.

Exit Strategy

Create an exit plan with your teen, establishing what they should do if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. Consider setting up a code that they can text you if they need for you to come and get them. That way, you can initiate their early departure from the date: they text you, you call them and tell them something has come up and you need to come and get them, or they need to leave immediately (if they have driven themselves).

Safety Precautions

A few simple reminders:

  • Teach your teen basic self-defense and to follow their gut.

  • Make sure they know to never take food or drinks from someone else (they should get their own) and to never leave food or drinks unattended.

  • They should always carry a cell phone that is fully charged when going out.

  • If the situation feels wrong, it probably is. Get out immediately.

  • Carry cash for a cab or bus fare.

  • Expect your teen to call at a set time while they are out.

General Rules

  • Get to know your teen’s friends. This will help strengthen your relationship with your teen and will provide you with insight into their behavior as well as a contact in case you can’t reach your teen when they are out.

  • If your teen is being picked up from home, meet their date before they leave and get the date’s phone number. If your teen is driving themselves, get the phone number of the person they are meeting.

  • Find out where they are going and who they will be with.

  • Check in with your child after their date; find out how it was.

  • Listen to how your teen talks about the person, watch for red flags.

Teen Guidelines: Communication and Instinct

  • Never go out without telling your parent where you are going and who you will be with.

  • Make sure your cell phone has a full battery and that you have cash in case of emergency.

  • Plan an activity with a group of friends for your first date. This allows you to get to know your date better in the safety of friends.

  • Date someone close to your age. You’ll have more things in common, and it is more likely that you’ll want similar things from the relationship. Someone older may be looking for things that you aren’t ready for.

  • Take your time getting to know your date. Become friends first.

  • If you met online and haven’t met in person, drive yourself to your date and meet in a public place.

  • Be confident and decisive; expect respect from your date. You deserve to be treated well, don’t accept less.

  • Stay in well-lit, public places.

  • Do not accept bad behavior from your date. If they are disrespectful, it’s time to go home.

  • It is ALWAYS ok to leave or to say no to ANYTHING that feels uncomfortable to you. Call or text a friend or parent. Use your exit strategy if you are embarrassed about wanting to leave.

Dating is scary enough without having to worry about personal safety. With a little forethought and planning, teens can have fun and stay safe when they date.

For more tips and support, teens can visit our teen community, parents can visit our parent community, chat with a free, trained online listener, or start online therapy.

References: HHS.org, LoveisRespect.org, LiveAbout.com, RAINN.org, PsychologyToday.com, BreaktheCycle.org, Youth.gov

Last Updated: 18 February 2019


Kathy Wenzel

Kathy is the editor of a leading regional publication in Michigan with personal experience with and a passion for mental health issues.

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