When we think back to our own days of teenage dating our memories might include making mix tapes, passing notes in class, school discos and asking our best mate to tell his best mate we fancied him. Teenage dating today is very different. It has a whole new lingo and a digital dimension that takes it to a different level. It can add a whole new layer of worry for both teens and their parents. While the rules might have changed, one thing has stayed the same. The giddiness and excitement of teenage romance and the crushing heartbreak when it all goes wrong.
The new teenage dating lingo: a parent’s dictionary
If you’ve ever watched Love Island you’ll be a bit more clued up on all the lingo that teens use when it comes to dating. If you’re new to the dating language teens use then here’s a quick guide to help you. Be warned. It’s complicated. It might make you feel very relieved that you grew up before the Internet was invented!
Grafting: the work someone puts in to let another know they are interested in them.
Patching: when a girl or boy you were chatting to/messaging with doesn’t reply or ignores you.
Slow-fading: when someone you like (or thought liked you) cuts off contact gradually, leaving longer and longer between texts and messages.
Ghosting: when someone you have been dating suddenly cuts off all communication, in real life as well as online.
Zombieing: when someone who has ghosted you suddenly resumes contact (often online).
Gaslighting: when false information is given to someone to make them doubt their own memory or perception of events.
Breadcrumbing: to send out a string of flirty but non-committal messages to keep someone interested.
Non-date date: when you meet up and there is lots of flirting, eye-contact and compliments but it’s clear that this is not an actual date.
Confusing for teens, confusing for parents
Just reading through all the definitions above can make your head spin and make you very glad you’re not a teenager today. It also makes it clear that teenage dating in the digital world brings a whole new level of complexity and confusion for our teens. As parents we can all remember how exciting it was when you thought a boy or girl you liked showed some interest. We can also recollect how much it hurt when you found out they were just not that into you. In the digital world of teenage dating, the ways that a potential love interest can lead you on and then drop you like a ton of bricks can be more direct and more brutal. That’s something your own teen might have to face.
So many new ways for our teens to get hurt
Teenage dating today is complicated and there are so many new ways our children can get hurt. If someone is ‘grafting’ your teen then they never quite know if they are their girlfriend/boyfriend and can feel very insecure. If your tween is online and can see that their crush or love interest is active but ‘patching’ them then it can really hurt. If your teen is ‘ghosted’ (all contact is cut off) then it can be very painful. A lot of teenage dating plays out online but it can hurt just as much in real life.
Often online communications can also be ambiguous or misconstrued. There is no ‘tone’ in texts and messages which can mean it is difficult for them to understand what their love interest is saying. A straightforward statement might seem cold and aloof and lead to a whole new level of angst. If someone they like ends a text with a kiss does that mean they like them or are they just being friendly? If they are active on Snapchat but don’t reply to a message does that mean they no longer like them? It’s a whole new ball game with teenage dating getting ever more complicated and stressful.