Teen Dating: A Mom's Guide
Kids make dates by cell phone
Chances are you won't hear the phone ring-and you won't get to chat (even briefly!) with your kids' friends when they call. Tami Beck, a mother of two in Shawnee, Kansas, remembers when a boy came to pick up her 15-year-old daughter and called from the driveway.
"He pulls in and gets on his cell phone and says, ‘I'm here,'" Beck recalls. "I said to my daughter, ‘Tell him he needs to come in. Your parents want to meet him.'" And to make sure their kids end up where they say they're going to be, some parents insist their kids call home by landline to confirm their whereabouts using caller ID.
Kids also use their cell phones to spread the news about parties. Beck demands that her daughter turn off her cell at 10:30 on weeknights and at midnight on weekends (before this, calls were coming in as late as 5:00 a.m.!). If you're concerned about calls your kid is making, another strategy is to use shared minutes on family plans; that way, you can scrutinize the phone bills. (Also, be sure you know the numbers of your child's friends.)
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.