according to many websites with dating statistics, like Day One, Love is Respect, and Do Something, one out of three teenagers experience some sort of dating abuse. One out of three is certainly a common statistic. I don’t think that teenagers should participate in single-dating relationships because of all the bad that can come from unsupervised high school dating. Before I move on, I must make something clear. I do not think that having a crush on someone is a life-threatening thing that should be avoided at all costs. On the contrary, having crush can be a very sweet, innocent thing. However, acting upon it in the form of dating is taking a crush to a new level. I think that there is a time and a place for dating and that junior high to high school is neither that time nor that place.
Teens in an abusive dating relationship are more likely to develop eating disorders, habits of substance abuse, or to attempt suicide than those that aren’t in such a relationship. This seems like an obvious concept, but if you consider the following statement, something should become crystal clear. According to the Lindsay Ann Burke Memorial Fund website, of the one-third of teens that experience some sort of verbal or physical abuse in their dating relationship, only a third of them tell someone about that abuse. Most of the time, parents have no idea that their teenager is being abused. So a mere eleven percent of teens in a abusive dating relationship tell someone else about it. Imagine the other eighty-nine percent, wanting to tell somebody — anybody — that secret so badly, and yet bottling up fear out of fear. If a girl becomes pregnant as a result of an abusive relationship or simply due to poor choices and she doesn’t tell anyone, who can tell what she’ll do? Being a parent is a big enough responsibility for an adult woman, let alone a high-school aged girl. If she doesn’t tell anyone that she’s pregnant and tries to wrestle through this herself, she may make some devastating decisions.
As male and female bodies change, their hormones are constantly rushing around trying to create a balance. An interesting analogy to the changing teenage body from the book Beautiful Girlhood, revised by Karen Andreola, is that of a room. Imagine coming home after a long day at work only to find new carpets, curtains, and furniture. You try to find someone to explain, but no one is around. While this book was specifically about girls and their bodily changes, I feel that the same can be said about boys as their bodies are changing. It’s all so sudden and your hormones are rushing around and it can be terribly overwhelming at times. Because of this hormonal imbalance, teenage emotions tend to run wild. When a boy or a girl is around his or her crush, he or she gets a rush of oxytocin, a hormone that is released when the feeling of love is present. Teens may think they know better and that a particular situation is different and it’s okay to “go for it”. It feels good, so it must be right… isn’t it? In their minds, it is, but it may not be. Teenage desires spurred on by jolts of oxytocin can get them into trouble if teenagers are left to their own devices in a dating relationship.
When you’re first learning how to do something, unless you’re a child prodigy, you’re not going to be a natural. Starting out with too much information or with too complex a task canbe overwhelming and frustrating. You have to start with something small and move forward in regular increments. For example, if you were just starting to take piano lessons and your teacher, handing you a copy of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, said “OK, here you go. Practice this and I want to hear it next week,” you’d probably just stare in shock. Or if you’re teaching yourself how to whittle or carve wood and you wanted your first project to be a detailed bas-relief of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, you’d very quickly be disappointed. Why should relationships be any different? According to the book Preparing for Adolescence: a Planning Guide for Parents, when it was common for people to get married around or before the age o ftwenty, there were five stages leading up to marriage: “1) awareness of the opposite sex, 2), mixed-group acquaintanceship, 3) personal friendship with several members of the opposite sex simultaneously, 4) extended (and largely exclusive) relationship with one in particular, and 5) serious courtship and marriage.” Now, people are waiting until their late twenties to get married. While the five stages still exist, Stages Three and Four have been switched around, and teens can go through many “sweethearts” from the ages of fifteen to nineteen. Teenagers are taking on a dating relationship before they’ve had any experience with the opposite sex as a friend. It can’t be healthy for teenagers to go through so many boyfriends or girlfriends so early on in their lives. Imagine if a two-year- old came running up to you with a steak knife in his hand. He sees that it can cut things like food, but he doesn’t quite understand that it can cut him. Or consider a five-year- old who just learned how to swim and now wants to go in the deep end of the pool so bad. Any parent would naturally deny both these children what they want in this instance because the kids don’t know how to handle themselves if these situations should take a turn for the worse. In denying these children what they want, parents are able to keep them safe and have more time to teach them how to handle themselves should the situation turn ugly. Teens are no different. Should you keep your teen completely sheltered from the opposite sex? No. Should he or she get some experience in dealing with members of the opposite sex before dating? Yes. Would teenagers instantly know what to do if they were on a date that was getting uncomfortable? Probably not without proper guidance, teaching, and incremental experience. Skills this complex take time and patience. I feel that dating is one of those situations in which teenagers should be denied what they want, or at least part of what they want, in order to develop valuable skills for when they are more ready to take on a dating relationship.
I think that there are many other solutions to satisfy the teen love rather than actually being in an all-out dating relationship. Teens can walk home from school together, sit together at lunch, go on a group date with multiple people, or just have a good, old-fashioned conversation during a group event like a picnic. In all of these scenarios, teens can be together without someone breathing over their shoulders with less of a temptation to give in to wild passion because of the presence of other people. Even if a parent allows his or her child to go on a date, with some supervision the date would be able to remain a date without taking a bad turn. In a group date or situation, people will be looking out for each other but still having fun at the same time.
Many teens will argue that they “need space”, that they can handle a dating relationship, or that they’re in love. Parents allowing their child to date unsupervised will say “Not my kid,” and may argue that their teen is responsible enough to handle themselves. Statistics of dating abuse and teen pregnancy would definitely shock any reader of this essay. However, common sense alone, I feel, clearly demonstrates the risks of being in a teen dating relationship and the logic of those risks, and thus, I feel that high school and junior high students shouldn’t be allowed to participate in single-dating relationships.