“That’s just in the movies,” says Brett, 14, of Aurora, Ont.“What happens in real life is you’ll be hanging out with your immediate circle of friends, including your girlfriend, and you go, ‘What’s everybody doing Friday night?“If I get bored [on a date], my friends keep things interesting,” Katie says.
The peer group provides checks and balances, along with feedback about what’s OK and what’s not, so kids are less likely to get out of their depth — especially in terms of conflict, expectations for behaviour and sex.
With traditional one-to-one relationships, Connolly says, things tend to escalate much more quickly, simply because the couple is spending a lot of time alone.
Having supportive friends around can exert a powerful moderating influence.
But by the same token, a tough, aggressive peer group can have a negative influence, such as tolerating dating violence.
“So from a parenting perspective,” says Connolly, who is also the director of the La Marsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution, “you want to know who your kids are friends with.” Kids like the security of having their friends around.
“When you’re going out with someone, it’s much easier to be yourself when your friends are there too,” says Katie, 15, of Carleton Place, Ont.“At this age we’re always fighting with our parents, so we need to feel we’re loved.” She’s quick to add that while she and her boyfriend love each other, they’re not . ” This is the new world of teen dating, and it can be almost unrecognizable to many parents.Long gone is the tradition where a boy phones a girl on Tuesday to ask her out for Saturday, picks her up at her house, meets the parents, pays for dinner and a show, and sees her home.Here’s our look at teen dating in the 21st century.The gang’s all here Going out with your significant other with all your mutual friends in tow is such a common phenomenon across the country that academics have started researching it.“We call it group dating, and we believe it can be really healthy and protective,” says Jennifer Connolly, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto who specializes in teen relationships.