Think before you sext: the experts’ guide to teen dating – The Guardian

Take things offline

Teen relationships often start online, so how do you progress to a real-world date? The first step is to make your chat more meaningful, says Charlene Douglas, an intimacy coach and sexual health educator. “Online, young people can banter for hours, so try to move the conversation on. Rather than just talking about celebs, or who said what at school, bring those situations back to what you have in common.”

Then introduce voice messaging and video calls, “to see if you really like the vibe of a person and to check they’re human”, says Hardeep Dhadda, presenter of the relationships podcast Thank You, Next. Her co-presenter, Raj Pander, suggests watching something at the same time on Netflix. Then: “Once you know you like and trust this person enough to go on a real-life date – ask them.”

Put safety first

Be sure they are who they say they are (Pander suggests checking tagged pics on Instagram), and meet in a public place, telling someone when and where you’re meeting. Pander says: “Not everyone is a serial killer, but it’s good practice to act as if they could be.”

Manage your emotions

Butterflies in your stomach? Heart racing? “It’s normal to feel that way,” says Chloe Goddard McLoughlin, a psychotherapist and relationship counsellor. “Just tell the other person that you’re nervous, because I guarantee they will be as well.”

If you’re nervous, say so. Photograph: Serena Brown/The Guardian

Pander, who is 37 and a self-confessed shy dater, says: “I plan a phone call with a friend before so they can prep me. We always have a contingency plan if anything gets weird, so if I text them they’ll call me so I can pretend there’s an emergency and leave.”

Be chatty

“Try to keep it light and talk about things you’re passionate about, as when you do that, your whole energy lights up,” says Douglas. Dhadda agrees: “If you like something – animals, sustainable fashion or Billie Eilish – let your date know. How can someone get to know you if you’re holding back or pretending to be someone else?” But there are no-nos: “If someone brought …….


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