Summer Teen/Tween Dating: How To Talk With Your Child About Dating Violence

One in three 14-year-olds have been in an abusive relationship

National (June 8, 2016) – Summer is synonymous with freedom, adventure and more often than parents would like to believe, blooming romances. Dating customs have changed since most parents were teens and tweens. The most striking difference is the young age at which children now begin dating: on average, twelve and a half for girls, and thirteen and a half for boys. Although parents might not be ready for their children to date, a parent’s ability to control that is very limited.

Often times, you might not recognize it as dating per se, as the recent dating trend among early adolescents often consists of group dates. Although this might put a parent’s mind at ease, they are still exposed to relationship dynamics that parents need to help them understand.
Did you know?
  • 72 percent of tweens say boyfriend/girlfriend relationships begin at age 14 or younger;
  • 37 percent of 11 to 12-year-olds say they have been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship;
  • 20 percent of tweens say that their parents know little or nothing about tweens' dating;
  •  Six percent of parents admit to knowing little or nothing about tweens' dating.
With recent findings determining that one in three 14-year-olds has experienced physical, sexual or psychological abuse within a dating relationship, rising to 44 percent by the time American young people graduate from college, teen dating violence (TDV) is a topic that parents must discuss with their children, especially as the freedoms of summer unleashes. Unfortunately, many parents neglect to have this conversation because they do not believe that TDV is a widespread problem – or that it does not apply to their children.
“I knew to talk with Jen about alcohol, drugs, sex and all those other parenting talks, but I never knew I had to teach her about dating violence,” said Drew Crecente, whose 18-year-old daughter was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. “I did not realize that it was such a pervasive issue at such a young age.”

The problem:
  • Only 51 percent of tweens claim to know the warning signs of an abusive relationships;
  • 81 percent of parents do not realize, or do not appreciate, that teen dating violence is a problem.
With parents generally unaware of their children dating, and kids uninformed on what constitutes a healthy relationship, then we certainly have a serious problem.

Parents need to understand what teens and tweens are facing and how to identify unhealthy relationships. Although some aspects of dating life have changed since most parents dated (e.g. social media), there are many things which haven't changed which parents didn't necessarily realize were unhealthy. In addition, children need to learn how to identify unhealthy relations, especially if their parents own relationships don’t necessarily demonstrate healthy relationship behaviors. 

Finding a solution:
Recognizing the importance of having this discussion is an important first step and Jennifer Ann’s Group has been producing video games about teen dating violence to support these discussions since 2008. All of their digital games are free, engaging and effective; the ideal solution for parents ready to tackle this important topic with their adolescents. Their video games are available at The non-profit’s research shows that people who play their games change their attitudes about unhealthy relationship behavior in only 30 minutes. No other program or approach has proven to be as effective.

“There is no excuse for parents to not explore these free games further,” explains Crecente. “Not only will they learn more about the complex reality of relationship behaviors, but they will also empower their kids to expect more from their dating partners and from themselves - even if they are not yet dating.”
Source: Liz Claiborne, Teen Research Unlimited Survey, released July 2008

About Jennifer Ann’s Group 
Jennifer Ann’s Group is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization preventing teen dating violence through awareness, education, and advocacy. The organization has been instrumental in the passing of legislation mandating teen dating violence awareness in schools and has distributed over a half-million free educational materials to schools, churches, and other organizations throughout the U.S. and U.K. at no cost to the recipients. For more information, visit

On February 15, 2006, Jennifer Ann Crecente, a high school senior, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. Jennifer was an honor roll student in high school, a camp counselor, a hospital volunteer, and participated in community theatre with her dad. Jennifer Ann’s Group is run by her father.


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