By Narmin Anwar
A few of our parents were allowed to date. Their parents would “match” them up and they would meet at a family get together once before they were married.
A few of our parents hid their relationships, and would see each other occasionally during their college days and then get married when the time was right.
Some of us dated behind our parents’ backs as early as high school. We’d say we were going out with friends, we’d make late night calls from the house phone, we’d email each other or chat until our dial-up got disconnected by an incoming call. Our relationships were usually not as constant or intimate until we got to college, where some of us dated just because we could.
Now, kids as young as elementary school have the ability to chat, Facebook, tweet, or text people they are interested in. This gives them the opportunity to constantly be in “conversation” with another person; an opportunity we never had. The lack of barriers allows these teens to get to know each other closely, faster. They can “talk” and “see” each other whenever they want to.
7:05 am- gluck on test 2day!
7:06 am- thx
11:36 am- howd u do?
12:01 pm- AAAH! idk
2:15 pm- get on fb
6:19 pm- wtf! where’d u go?
6:24 pm- dinner. Vidc l8ter?
10:49 pm- call me
11:00 pm- cant now. Parents here.
12:01 am- r u awake?
12:05 am- I am now, bad day!
12:06 am- its ok *hugs* call me!
Given our own limited interactions with the opposite sex during our teenage years, seeing this private text dialogue seems crazy. It’s even crazier to know that a similar exchange happens almost every day. If they talk 24/7 like that, they must surely be dating each other…right? I’m thinking the constant contact can only lead to a more intimate relationship. The two will obviously become attached and won’t be able to go through a day without talking to the other before making any big decisions. They are essentially dating and they don’t even know it.
But we also have to realize the teenage social culture has changed. Teenagers are in constant contact with a lot of people in their social network including parents, teachers, siblings and friends. Facebook allows you to know everyone’s favorite movie, what event they are going to on Saturday night, and what they look like after a new haircut. Social networking has changed how we get to know someone; it has redefined every type of relationship. Thus, talking via text or chat all day cannot always be assumed as dating.
Even though the methods of communication have changed and increased in frequency, teen dating is almost still as restricted as it was when we were teens. Yes, there are exceptions, but there were exceptions then too. Nowadays teenage couples become “Facebook official,” they hold hands and sometimes steal kisses at chaperoned school dances, and they chat till late at night. None of this is abnormal behavior for hormonal 13 to 19 year-olds.
The problem isn’t too much texting; it is un-monitored, un-structured excess time. If any of us had a bunch of extra time to do nothing, we would all be more likely to become involved in negative activities because “it’s something new and everyone else is doing it.”
However, locking up teens by not allowing them to create Facebook accounts, go online or text will only make them more rebellious and negative toward our culture and expectations. It will make it harder for them to make friends or even get their schoolwork done. Thus, texting cannot be completely restricted; it is just the way teens communicate with their peers.
Earlier this year, my father was very hesitant to give my teenage brother texting privileges. The evening news, he said, reported teenagers were sending nude pictures to each other and becoming more involved in activities such as smoking, drinking and sex.
I said, “Abbu, you’re scared that your son will do all that if he starts TEXTING? YOUR son? Do you know how you raised that kid? Your son yells at you when you don’t pray five times a day. Text dating is the least of your worries.”
The solution is to expose children to literature, sports, culture, religion and family from an early age. If they value these things, they will voluntarily turn away from their phones to enjoy something else. If the proper values are instilled, they won’t succumb to negative pressures. But we have to have faith that the values we’ve preached have stuck. The parent-child relationship is a two way street. If you go to the Taj Mahal, it would be “tweet-worthy” for the teenager and quality time for you.
Relax, your teenager is most likely not text-dating.