Today's teens have always had technology in their world, from learning colors and counting to playing games, watching movies and Skyping with their grandparents. Since teens are digital natives, it's logical for technology to play a role in relationships, especially romantic ones.
In 2014 and 2015, the Pew Research Center survey examined American teens' (ages 13-17) digital romantic practices. The online survey and focus group results are telling.
Though 57 percent of teens have digital friendships, teens are far less likely to start a romantic relationship online. Most teens with dating experience (76 percent) say they have only dated people they met in person. Only 8 percent of all teens have dated or hooked up with someone they first met on social media, and most of those introductions are on Facebook.
Still, technology is a major vehicle for flirting and expressing interest in a potential partner. Teens also use social media to like, comment, friend or joke around with a crush. Among all teens:
55 percent have flirted or talked to someone in person to express their interest.
50 percent have let someone know they were romantically interested by "friending" them on social media.
47 percent have expressed their attraction by liking, commenting or otherwise interacting with that person on social media.
46 percent have shared something funny or interesting with their romantic interest online.
31 percent sent them flirtatious messages.
10 percent have sent flirty or sexy pictures, or videos of themselves.
Overall, 85 percent of teens in a romantic relationship expect to hear from their significant other once a day. Sometimes teens expect even more.
11 percent expect to hear from their partner hourly.
35 percent expect to hear something every few hours.
38 percent expect to hear from their significant other once a day.
Teens say texting is the top way to spend time together, which is interesting since they aren't actually together.
Additionally, phone calls, in-person time and other digital means for staying in touch were in the mix. As for spending time with their current/former boyfriend or girlfriend, teen daters preferred:
Text messaging: 92 percent
Talking on the phone: 87 percent
Being together in person: 86 percent
Social media: 70 percent
Instant or online messaging: 69 percent
Video chatting: 55 percent
Messaging apps: 49 percent
Thirty-one percent of teens who dated reported that a current or former partner has checked up on them multiple times per day. They use the internet or cellphone to ask where they are, who they are with or what they are doing.
Teens were also surveyed about potentially controlling and harmful behaviors they may have experienced in relationships.
15 percent (or 5 percent of all teens) say a current or former partner used the internet or text messaging to pressure them to engage in unwanted sexual activity.
16 percent have been required by a current or former partner to remove people from their friends list on social media.
13 percent said their current or former partner demanded they share their email and internet passwords with them.
19 percent report that a current or former partner has used the internet, digital media or a cellphone to threaten them.
8 percent report that a current or ex-partner used information posted on the Internet against them, to harass or embarrass them.
After a relationship ends, 22 percent of teens state that a former partner used the internet or a cellphone to call them names, put them down or say really mean things to them. Fifteen percent report that a current or former partner used mobile phones or the internet to spread rumors about them.
Technology connects us in many ways, but teens need more information about technology and romantic relationships.
Although dating is an opportunity to get to know someone, identify common interests, see if your personalities get along and whether you enjoy each other's company — it is different from marriage.
Teens still need your help to understand the meaning of dating and what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Furthermore, help them understand that:
Posting mean things is poor form and disrespectful.
Demanding passwords is inappropriate.
Constantly checking up on a partner is unhealthy.
Demanding to know who, what, where, why and how from someone is controlling, dishonoring and disrespectful behavior.
Texting back and forth is different from spending time with someone.
Don't assume your teen knows how to successfully navigate romantic relationships. Take every chance you get to teach them how to respect and honor others.