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Teen Dating: A Mom's Guide

They meet other teens online

Internet sites like myspace.com, facebook.com, and xanga.com, where teens can post pictures and trade messages, allow kids to meet tons of new people. While the dangers should be obvious, teens can be oblivious. "Parents need to understand that this is a very real risk," says Parry Aftab, executive director of wiredsafety.org. Wanda Yee, a mother of three daughters from Ridgeway, New Jersey, requires that they keep their myspace.com accounts set to private, an option offered by the site so that parents can determine who has access to their kid's page. And a reminder: Keep your computer in an open area, like an office or the kitchen, where it can be monitored by anyone coming in and out.

Girls ask boys out too

One woman with three sons was astonished last summer when a girl took a liking to her 15-year-old and got aggressive. "She was very demanding. She would tell him to sneak out," the mom says. Then the mother heard that the girl wanted to have sex with her son. So she sat him down for a serious conversation. "I told him I'd like to see him wait until he was at least 18," she says. Boys need to be told that it's OK to say no. And girls need to be taught how to be respectful of a boy's feelings.

Kids think oral sex isn't a big deal

Teen pregnancy numbers are down, and so is the number of kids who are having intercourse. But that doesn't mean kids aren't sexually active: Studies have found that some 50 percent of teenagers, ages 15 to 19, have engaged in oral sex. "I have an 11-year-old middle schooler who came home saying that a boy wanted her to have oral sex with him in the parking lot," says Tonja Krautter, a psychologist in Los Gatos, California, who works with adolescents. "A lot of kids have this idea that it's no big deal." Kids who think this may be missing crucial messages about sexually transmitted diseases and self-esteem.

Talk to your kids about the seriousness of any sexual contact. Still, in all likelihood, they won't want to hear the particulars from you. In fact, a recent survey showed that most kids are getting their sex info from the Internet. So make sure they're getting their facts from a reputable source such as teenhealthfx.com. "There are very few accurate, direct, honest resources for adolescents to get their personal questions answered on sexuality matters," says Walter Rosenfeld, M.D., interim chairman for Goryeb Children's Hospital at Morristown Memorial, which supports the site. "Parents should offer guidance to their teenagers, but they should recognize there's a limit to how much the kids will listen." Dr. Rosenfeld also recommends sexetc.org (from Rutgers University), www.ashastd.org (from the American Social Health Association, for information about sexually transmitted diseases), and youngwomenshealth.org (from Children's Hospital Boston, for girls).

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