At What Age Should Kids Be Allowed to Date?

Photo: omar franc.

Recently, the children of two close friends have begun dating. One at age 16. Another at age 12. And it made me realize that we, as parents, have a pretty wide range of ideas on what age kids should be allowed to start dating and even on what dating means at various ages. So I threw the question out there to the World Wide Web: "At what age did you or will you allow your children to start dating?"

Predictably, two of the three dads who weighed in responded with "Never!"

FM, from Los Angeles, Calif., added "Italian father. We are not genetically predisposed to deal with such things. P.S. My head just exploded at the thought."

Here's what the rest of the Web had to say about kids and dating:

Define dating

Dating" or "Hanging out" Big difference these days ... seems to start younger & younger ... but around 7th [grade], when the dances start, the dating starts.

Judith: Hazleton, PA

Double duty

In my house, we allowed dating to start at 9th grade. But for my daughter, the boy had to be willing to go on a "double date" with my husband and I first. If the boy won't spend time with us, then he can't be alone with our daughter. Worked great for us!

Jo Anne Jordan Winschel

Homeschool homies

As homeschoolers, my kids are in a different social structure, so I suppose we'd just take it one day/one person at a time. My son at 11 already has a very close girl friend (not girlfriend) but if that evolved, we'd just see how it went and make sure to be open with him and encourage him to do the same.

Janell: Luray, Va.

Depends on the kid - and the date

My parents said 16. I would say earlier if it is a group thing. It also depends on your relationship with your kid and how well you trust him/her, plus the boy/girlfriend and other friends.

Brenna: Portland, Ore.

The dating sneak attack

My Dad always said no dating until I was 16. When I was around 14 I wanted to go on a date but knew he wouldn't let me. So we got a bunch of other couples together to go with us (movies) and I told my Dad it couldn't possibly be a date with that many people there and that it was instead a "gathering". He told me there was no debating that logic and I got to go. And then never again until I was just about to turn 16 and had my first serious boyfriend.

Jen: Ontario, Canada

Do as I say, not as I did?

Nothing unchaperoned until they're 15-ish and we'd have to get to know him first. I like Jo Anne's double date idea. I also don't mind the idea of a group if 13-14 year olds walking the fair together but I also remember the wacky stunts and cover-ups my friends and I pulled when we were that age. We always found ways to sneak off alone.

I need drink now. LOL

Kira: Luray, Va.


My oldest son is 12 and in 6th grade. I'm discovering that "dating" is sometimes synonymous with texting and that's it. That's fine with me at this point. I think when it progresses to actually meeting out at a certain time and the possibility of physical contact - that's when it can be worrisome as a parent. I don't think I have a certain age in mind for dating to be OK - I think every child is different. I'm prepared to just see how it evolves.

Lori: Madison, Wisc.

Define "girlfriend"

True story - when my son was 11, he had a friend who had a girlfriend - one that they would go to each others houses & hang out in his bedroom alone, door open or shut :/ he started asking me if he could have a girlfriend. My response? "Tell me what having a girlfriend means to you ... does it mean you hold hands? Carry her books, what? I mean really, this girl you are thinking of is obviously your friend so what would making her your girlfriend change?" He would just say "MOM!" I told him that until he was mature enough to answer that question, the answer is NO ... this went on for yearssssss! He will be 16 in a couple of weeks, and not only was he able to hold that conversation about a year ago, but he is willing to talk now because he knows I'm open & interested. Parenting ... I'm with Kira, I need a drink.

Lora: Luray, Va.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. At what age did you or will you allow your kids to start dating?

MNN tease photo: Shutterstock