Teens Are Dating Exclusively Via Social Media: Here's What Parents Should Know

Originally Published: 
Two teen friends lying on a bed and using their phones
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A few years ago my daughter started dating a boy. We’ll call him Tom. While I figured she knew Tom in person because of the way she talked about how funny he was, and knew everything from his favorite food to the kind of car his mother drove …

… she didn’t.

Or should I say, they had never met in person.

Because she had FaceTimed and Snapped with him all the time, she told me she did know him.

“But you never met him in person? Like, you’ve never seen him in real life — I mean, ‘IRL?'”

“Oh my God mom, you are such a noob,” was the answer I heard from the back of my daughter’s head while she walked away from me.

Clearly, clearly, the fact I thought this was more than a bit odd made me old-fashioned and really dumb.

In my daughter’s eyes, I might as well put on a prairie dress and milk my cow because I certainly didn’t belong in this century.

A few weeks later, she actually met this boy named Tom — and, well, they were no longer. I asked what happened; she had really seemed to like him and they “had a thing.”

(Side note: teens don’t call each other boyfriend or girlfriend right away. First, they have “a thing.” This can last weeks or months even. And they aren’t allowed to “have a thing” with anyone else. I have no idea.)

“They met,” my son chimed in from the next room. “That’s what happened.”

Okay then.

So that’s what’s happening these days.

Our teens are dating on SnapChat, where they meet through other friends. They see each other’s pictures, or get introduced by mutual friends. They FaceTime and Snap (without meeting), then they “have a thing” (again, there is no primary meeting here), and begin dating. Virtually, I guess.

I was shocked that virtually “having a thing” was a thing — but it is very much a thing.

My son has been with his girlfriend for almost two years, and they were introduced on SnapChat through a mutual friend.

They talked and “had a thing” for almost six months before they met — and are both 18 and very much in love.

My daughter now “has a thing” with a new boy. They spend lots of time chatting, Snapping, and FaceTiming. They are still getting to know each other, and although they have not met, they aren’t going to have “a thing” with anyone else.

Here are some things I’ve learned about Gen Z and how they date.

This is legit how they meet people – through social media. They take it seriously, and I suggest you do too, or they won’t talk to you about it.

Things have changed since we were dating in high school, parents. But that doesn’t make our way better, and if we start telling them how we used to do it, we’re going to lose their attention. They literally don’t care.

It’s actually a good thing. They get to know each other in the safety of their own home and they feel comfortable. They get to call the shots and decide when they meet.

Still, I take precautions. Like, my daughter is only allowed to meet this boy she’s talking with because I’ve met him online, seen lots of pictures of him, and she’s told me a lot about him and their relationship.

And there are rules: he either has to come here, or I will drop her off at a restaurant if she wants to meet him somewhere. I will meet him too, stay close by, and go over our safety code if she needs me.

This makes them mad, of course. They want free rein and to be trusted. However, the fact is this is still a stranger they are talking to, and I am not going to let my kids take off in a car, or drop them off at someone’s house unless I physically see, and talk to a parent.

This is how teens are dating these days. Even if I think it’s weird, they don’t. So I hold my tongue, but I keep the precautions in place despite their protests — because that’s one “old-school” way of thinking I refuse to change.

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