Dating is a normal part of the teenage years, when adolescents are starting to develop romantic feelings and are also gaining some independence. The amount of privacy that a teenager is allowed to have with her boyfriend is different for every family and should be determined according to your comfort level and trust. It is important to understand how some privacy can benefit your teen, and where crossing the line can lead to problems.
Allowing your teenager to spend some appropriate time alone with her boyfriend can help her to experience the positives of a dating relationship. According to the University of Florida IFAS Extension website, dating helps to teach your teen about companionship, cooperation skills, empathy and how to develop a meaningful relationship. The type of privacy needed for these benefits does not necessarily include alone time in your teen’s bedroom, however. She can learn valuable information about relationships by spending time alone with her boyfriend in public, away from groups of friends.
Giving your teenager too much privacy with her boyfriend can encourage the incidence of sexual activity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, although teen pregnancy is on the decline, there were still over 300,000 babies born to teen mothers in the United States in 2011. Sexual activity can also make your daughter vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, the NYU Child Study Center website warns that dating violence among teens is a growing problem, particularly because teens often have yet to learn what is considered normal or appropriate in a relationship.
Before you determine how much privacy your teen should have with her boyfriend, begin by making sure that she knows the facts about dating violence, the risks of sex and how to have sex safely. It’s important that you fully educate her instead of relying on the media or her peers. The NYU Child Study Center site recommends teaching her to trust her own judgment in situations. Finally, set up ground rules and limits that you are comfortable with, and let her know what happens if she breaks the rules. For example, you might want to establish a curfew or make rules regarding when and where she and her boyfriend can be alone. Follow through with consequences consistently when she breaks the rules, and let her know you’ll be checking to make sure she’s being responsible.
The University of Florida IFAS Extension site warns against the existence of double standards, which can be common for families to fall into, especially when the maturity levels of teen sons and daughters can be different. Avoid double standards by setting the same firm rules regarding dating and privacy for all of your adolescent children.