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A happy teen couple.Romance can make your heart pound and your tummy flip. If you're confused or concerned, we can help! Keep reading for answers to common questions about teen dating.

When do teens start dating?

There is no right age for teens to start dating. Every person is different. Lots of teens enjoy just hanging out in a group. Here are some tips for thinking about when you might start seeing someone:

Ask yourself:

  • Do I know what I want in a person I date?
  • Is this right for me, or do I just want to do what my friends are doing?
  • Am I doing this because I like someone, or because I like the idea of having someone?
  • Can I handle tough feelings like jealousy?
  • Do I know what I'm ready for in terms of physical stuff?
  • Do I know how I'd say no to sex?

Talk to your parents or guardians about starting to date. They may have rules about things like when you can be alone with a date. If you don't like the rules, ask calmly about changing them. Staying calm shows that you're getting more mature. Read about talking with parents.

What is a healthy dating relationship?

Healthy dating relationships start with the same things that all healthy relationships start with. You can take a quick quiz to help see if your relationship is one to love or one to lose.

You can read some top tips for a healthy dating relationship.

Dating relationships also are different from other relationships. You may have strong feelings of attraction and other intense feelings. You may even want to spend all of your time together. Try to spend some time apart, though. That way you can connect with other people who care about you, too. And you'll have time for goals and activities that matter to you.

Is it true love?

Love involves really knowing someone, respecting them, trusting them, and caring about their happiness. It's great when it happens, but it usually takes time! Read more about falling in love.

What about dating and sexual feelings?

Sexual feelings can be strong, and you may feel confused. Keep in mind that the sex in movies, music, and TV shows often doesn't reflect real or healthy relationships. So how do you know what's right? Trust your instincts and treat yourself with respect — and make sure your crush does, too.

You have a lot to think about. can help. In our section on dating and sexual feelings, you can read about deciding about sex, why waiting makes sense, talking to your partner about sex, birth control, and more.

Talk with the other person ahead of time about what you will and will not do physically. Waiting until the heat of the moment to try to cool things down doesn't work as well.

The person you're with should always respect your right to say no. If you think someone is not treating you with respect, learn more about safety in relationships.

What about hooking up? Different people mean different things when they say "hooking up." Usually, though, it means doing something sexual with somebody you're not dating. Have you heard that hooking up could be fun? Well, hooking up can have some serious downsides. These include feeling embarrassed or upset afterward, getting pregnant, and getting a sexually transmitted disease (also known as an STI).

Fast facts about sex

>>Do you think most teens are having sex? The truth is that about 6 in 10 girls ages 15 to 19 have never had sex.

>>Do you think sexually transmitted diseases (STDs, or STIs) don't happen to teens? The truth is 1 out of 4 teen girls has an STD.

Should I date someone close to my age?

It's best to date someone close to your own age. Here are some reasons why:

  • Someone older may be more mature and ready for a different kind of relationship.
  • Dating someone older increases the odds that your partner will want to have sex before you're ready.
  • Younger girls who date older guys are more likely to face an unwanted pregnancy.
  • A guy who is legally an adult could get sent to prison if he has sex with you and you're underage. That could happen even if you are 17 and he is 18, depending on the law in your state.

How can I stay safe when dating?

Dating can be a great way to get to know someone — and to get to know what you want from a relationship. Plus, it can be a lot of fun! But it's not fun to feel scared. 

You can take steps to stay safe whenever you go out with someone. For example, try getting to know a person by talking at school or on the phone first. You also can go out with a group of friends to a public place. If the two of you go out alone, tell your parents or guardians who you are going with and where. And follow your parents' rules for things like curfew, since those often are set for your safety. You can read more dating safety tips, including info on sexting.

Dating dangers

Anyone you date should treat your body and your feelings with respect.

If you think the person you're dating is abusive, get help. Talk to your parents or guardians or other adult you trust. You can get help through by chat, by texting "loveis" to 22522, or by phone at 866-331-9474. You also can read about signs of an unhealthy relationship.

Remember that sex you don't agree to is rape. Rape is a crime. It is never your fault, no matter the situation. If you have been raped, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline online or at 800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673).


Content last reviewed September 16, 2015
Page last updated August 24, 2018