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Is 14 Too Young to Date?

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: My 14-year-old daughter has a boy "friend" who calls almost every night and they talk for at least 2 hours. She wanted to have him, his friend, and her friend over one night to watch a movie. The boys promised they would leave by 9:30 and she made it clear that they weren't going to "do anything." My husband and I also agreed that she could not date until she was at least done with freshman year. She thought this was very unreasonable and argued that her friend's parents were letting a boy that was 16 and living in another town drive over and pick her up for a movie. What is appropriate for kids my daughter's age?

A: Your daughter is using the old saw "my friend's parents are...." That is very normal and, as is appropriate, you as her parents have said she may not date until she has finished her freshman year.

Preteens definitely need the experience of interacting in safe situations like the movie watching in your home. I do think it is appropriate provided that you are there. That means you approve the movie, you welcome the guests, you go in the room from time to time, and you -- along with your daughter -- bid them all good night at 9:30.

I encourage you to think about the 2 hours she spends on the phone every night with her friend (no matter what the gender). There are some boundaries here that I think are being violated. When is your daughter doing her homework, reading, interacting with the family, doing chores, seeing other friends, developing her own hobbies, etc.? Is this a family phone? Ten to 15 minutes at the most should be sufficient. I am supposing she sees this friend every day at school -- they can talk then.

If this is her own phone, I must admit to a personal prejudice: Why does a young teen need a personal line? Even with a personal line teen phone use needs to be monitored. That's the job we parents must take seriously to ensure our children's -- and our own -- safety.

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.


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