Falling in love in the internet age is a whole different ball game to the social-media free 70’s and 80’s. Calls on the homeline (via parent gatekeepers), sending and receiving cards in the mail and mixtapes were all key relationship milestones back in the days of rollerskates and Choose Life t-shirts. But fast forward to the new millennium and dating is a whole different sport.
The Pew Research Centre recently undertook research into how 13-17 year old Americans flirt, date and even break up in the digital age. And I think the findings may quite surprise you! Here is what I found the most intriguing (through the eyes of an 80’s and early 90’s dater):
- Only 8% of teens met their ‘loved one’ online
I think we can all take a deep breath now. Many parents worry about their teens trawling Tinder to find a mate however the majority clearly aren’t. Only 24% of teen daters (or 8% of all teens) have in fact made the initial connection with a partner online. And of the very small minority who did make the connection online first, the vast majority was on Facebook. No surprise there!
- Social media is the place to flirt!
So even though the bulk of teen romances don’t start online, social media is the venue of choice for flirting and ‘tuning’ – vocab courtesy of my teen boys! Liking posts, cute comments and jokey banter is the way teens often develop these in-person connections. 50% of teens have let someone know they were interested romantically by friending them on Facebook or another social media site and 47% have expressed their interest by liking, commenting or otherwise interacting with that person on social media.
- There is Loads of Contact – And Not Just Via A Screen
Text messaging and talking on the phone are the top ways teens communicate. Most of the teens who were interviewed expected that they and their partner would ‘check-in’ with great regularity throughout the day. In fact, 35% expect to hear something every few hours and 11% expect to hear from their partner hourly. Such commitment! Certainly explains some of the phone bills we have experienced in this household.
- The BreakUp Text Message Is Just Not Cool
The overwhelming majority of teens think a breakup text is just not acceptable. It is widely agreed that an in-person breakup is the most mature decision. However even though text messaging breakups are largely frowned upon, 27% of teens with dating experience admit to breaking up with someone by text!
- Girls On Receiving End of More Online Harassment Than Boys
As expected, not all online flirting (or tuning) behaviour is appreciated with nearly 25% of teens admitting to unfriending someone on social media because the person was flirting in a way that made them feel uncomfortable. But girls do cop it more than boys with 35% of all teen girls having to block someone but just 16% of boys!
So, even though the landscape has changed and the mixtapes have gone, please don’t forget that dating and romance can be super tricky when you are a teen. Not only are you dealing with matters of the heart but in the world’s biggest public forum – the internet. So be kind, gentle and supportive! And be grateful for the simplicity of the 70’s and 80’s.