Teens, Technology and Romance

Teen dating in the age of technology isn't always simple.
By Julie Baumgardner
October 9, 2017

It’s totally logical for technology to play a role in teen relationships, especially in romance. But how much of a part does it play?

The Pew Research Center examined American teens’ (ages 13-17) digital romantic practices to find out.

Though 57% of teens have digital friendships, teens are less likely to start a romantic relationship online. Most teen daters (76%) say they’ve only dated people they met in person. Only 8% of teens have dated or hooked up with someone they first met on social media. (And most of those introductions are on Facebook.)

Still, teens use technology to flirt and express interest in a potential partner. They also use social media to like, comment, friend or joke around with a crush. 

  • 55% have flirted or talked in person to express interest.
  • 50% have let someone know they were romantically interested by “friending” them on social media.
  • 47% have expressed their attraction by liking, commenting, or otherwise interacting on social media.
  • 46% have shared something funny or interesting with their romantic interest online.
  • 31% flirted through messages.
  • 10% have sent flirty or sexy pictures/videos of themselves.

Overall, 85% of teen daters expect to hear from their significant other once a day. Some teens expect even more.

  • 11% expect to hear from their partner hourly.
  • 35% expect to hear something every few hours.
  • 38% expect to hear from their significant other once a day.

Teens say texting is the top way to “spend time 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%
  • Talking on the phone: 87% 
  • Being together in person: 86%
  • Social media: 70% 
  • Instant or online messaging: 69%
  • Video chatting: 55%
  • Messaging apps: 49%

31% of daters 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 asked about potentially controlling and harmful behaviors involving technology in relationships.

  • 15% (or 5% of all teens) say a partner used the internet or text messaging to pressure them into unwanted sexual activity.
  • 16% have had a partner require removing people from their friends list on social media.
  • 13% said their partner demanded they share their email and internet passwords with them.
  • 19% report that a partner used the internet, social media or a cellphone to threaten them.
  • 8% report that a partner used online information against them to harass or embarrass them.
  • After a relationship ends, 22% of teens said a former partner used the internet or a cellphone to bully them. 15% report that a partner used mobile phones or the internet to spread rumors about them.

Technology connects us in many ways, and it can be a handy tool. But many teens need more info to navigate technology and romantic relationships successfully.

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. However, it is different from marriage.

Teens in relationships still need your help when it comes to romance.

They must understand what dating is and how to identify appropriate and inappropriate behavior. You can help them understand that:

  • Posting mean things is unkind.
  • Demanding passwords is not ok.
  • Constantly checking up on a partner is unhealthy.
  • Demanding to know who, what, where, why, and how is controlling, dishonoring, and disrespectful behavior.
  • Texting back and forth is not the same as spending time with someone.

Many teens struggle with all the ups and downs of technology in romance and relationships. The good news is, teaching them how to respect and honor others can make a lasting impact on their love life and their future.

Other blogs:

How to Be An Emotionally Safe Parent

When (and How) Should I Give My Child Cell Phone?

Five Reasons Teen Girls Stop Talking to Their Dads

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

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