9 Ways Teen Dating Has Changed Since We Were Kids

teen dating

Ah, the good old days. Maybe you find yourself reminiscing or "TBT-ing" back to the days before the widespread onset of social media and the constantly connected lifestyle. Remember those days? Now remember dating in those days? Turns out they really are gone: today's teens don't date like their parents.


Maybe you're a parent to a teenager, or you're dreading the moment when your little one finally reaches those years. Either way, you're in for a rude awakening: teen dating culture has taken quite a turn.

MTV recently surveyed teens across the country for a new project entitled "High School Hallways." From their social media usage to their high school habits, and yes, their dating lives, teens dished on all things romantic and otherwise. And The Stir learned these new habits are not what parents might expect.

How's teen dating changed since we were kids? Brace yourself for the truth:

  1. Follow them on social media.
    Ah, the days before Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, how peaceful they were, no? There were no pictures of your lunch or morning selfies posted anywhere, but thanks to our leaps and bounds in technology, at least 95 percent of teenagers ages 12 to 17 are online and at least 81 percent are using social media. Now, as soon as they've met and chatted with a potential girlfriend or boyfriend, kids friend and follow them on their respective social media profiles. So parents, it might be a good idea to keep an eye out on who they're friending and following.

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  2. "What's your number?"
    Back in the day, our parents were clued in that something was going on by the constant calls from that one special someone. But exchanging those digits in this day and age doesn't mean they'll be calling your landline and asking if your kids are available to chat. Texting is the go-to, so unless your kids are up front about their dating life, or you're checking their texts, you may never know they're talking. 
  3. What's your ID?
    Snapchat ID, that is. The real point of texting, the experts say, is to exchange Snapchat IDs. While adults these days can't quite point to any photo sharing site like Snapchat (and it's fairly safe to say moms and dads didn't snail mail one another daily selfies), your teens are all about the the photo messaging app. The tool lets users send photos that appear on the receiver's screen for anywhere from one to 10 seconds and then disappear. It allows for instant photo chatting back and forth, and because of the quickness and disappearance of the photos, it makes the app a go-to forum for:
  4. Sexting.
    Yes, it's real, and yes, it happens. In a study completed by Drexel University that measured teen sexting rates, researchers found that more than half of respondents admitted to participating in sexting. About 54 percent admitted that they had sexted, and 28 percent send actual photos. It's safe to say that back in the day, parents didn't mail nudies to one another, but naked pictures are a part of today's dating culture. But starting a conversation about it (uncomfortable as it may be), and explaining the possible legal ramifications is paramount.
  5. Getting "Insta-intimate."
    After they've gotten more familiar on Snapchat, kids tend to get more intimate via Instagram. In "High School Hallways," teens admitted to liking and commenting on one another's Instagram feeds as a sign of furthering a relationship. At this point, back in "vintage" dating times, we'd be holding hands in public or introducing significant others, but your kids are simply showing their interest -- publicly -- by liking each other's posts.
  6. "Want to come over and watch Netflix?"
    Not quite what you think it means. It's code for, "Come over, maybe say 'hi' to my parents, and we're going to hang out in my room." Back in the day, we'd invite our potential boyfriend or girlfriend to watch the live episode of a favorite show, but that's not the case in 2015. This line gives teens a chance to get to know one another one-on-one, and in person, and parents an opportunity to meet this new friend. So Mom and Dad, be aware of what this means, and maybe insist that the doors stay open.
  7. Going public.
    Congratulations, at this point, your kids are probably a "thing" (code for dating). They attend parties together, but don't expect them to be going on solo dates. Nope. According to "High School Hallways," group dates have replaced traditional dates, especially early into the relationship. Driving to your boyfriend's or girlfriend's house, ringing the doorbell, and waiting to speak to parents is firmly no longer the thing to do. Now, group hangs dominate. So when you hear your teen is going on a big group outing, ask to get to know everyone who's attending.

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  8. Intimacy has no real timeline.
    There's no dating, going on a date, being official, and meeting parents. "High School Hallways" proved that while some teens might date like their parents did, some choose entirely unconventional ways. Earmuffs here, Mom! You teen may hook up on their first meeting (and "hooking up" refers to anything from kissing to having sex), or not until they're actually dating, but don't expect to find a clear-cut formula. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 45 percent of teens have sex in high school, but there is good news for parents. Teens nowadays actually wait longer to become sexually active. In 1994, 30 percent of 15-year-olds were sexually active. Now, only about 16 percent of kids have had sex by their 15th birthday.
  9. They're dating? Great, tag away!
    The sure-fire sign that your teen is now officially in a relationship? They're tagged in photos, or are tagging photos of their significant other. Doing this before they're official is one big no-no. So once you see that, you can bet they're together. Take a look at their profile, or look at their recent posting or things people have posted about them to find out the real status. 

Overwhelmed yet? Teen dating now has taken a drastic turn, that's for sure. But rest assured, there is one thing we all still have in common: Teens still have the same initial meeting spots. They meet their potential significant other through friends, school, and after-school activities -- just like you did. 

Oh, and a word to the wise: if you're glued into their Facebook to find out when they change their relationship status, you might be waiting for a while. According to a survey completed by the Pew Research Center, while many teens are still on the site, their regular usage has gone down by nearly 27 percent since spring 2014. If you're friends with your child on Facebook, don't expect to see many updates on their dating life... or even their status.

Better keep your eyes -- and ears -- peeled for much bigger and more subtle clues.

Is your teen dating? What's a difference you've seen?


Image via michaeljung/shutterstock

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