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Can a 13 Year Old Date a 16 Year Old?

It is a parent’s job to care for and protect their children. As children grow into teenagers, parenting can become even more challenging than before and while we may always have our child’s best interests at heart, our teens may not see it that way.

Dating is one of the things that can cause teens and their parents to clash. Your young teen might want to start dating but you want to protect them from potential danger and heartbreak.

Hormones are telling your child now is the time to start dating, but your protective parental instincts think dating is a bad idea. For example, if your 13-year-old wants to date a 16-year-old, should you let them?

A 13-year-old should not date a 16-year-old. There are many reasons why your 13-year-old should not be dating a 16-year-old, ranging from the age of consent and differing levels of maturity. A 16-year-old is much more emotionally mature than a 13-year-old, there are also potential legal implications for a 16-year-old dating a 13-year-old.

Why You Should Not Let 13-Year-Olds Date 16-Year-Olds?

Your 13-year-old may think dating an older boy or girl at school is a great idea. Your young teen may think that dating someone older will make them more popular or more exciting in the eyes of their peer group.

However, a 13-year-old should not be dating someone three years older than them, and there are many reasons for this:

16-year-olds can face legal implications

Children under the age of 16 should not be having sex. The legal age of consent is in place to protect children from having sex before they are emotionally and physically ready.

In some states, the age of consent is 16 and in others, it is as high as 18. When children reach the age of consent they are deemed legally competent to consent to sex. 

If a 16-year-old has sex with a 13-year-old, he or she can be prosecuted for statutory rape. This is one of the reasons why a 16-year-old should not date a 13-year-old.

By 16 years of age, many teens are interested in sex and may be ready to become sexually active. If a 16-year-old has sex with a 13-year-old, even if the 13-year-old consented, in the eyes of the law the consent was not valid and the sexual encounter can be considered rape. 

The 16-year-old can face legal implications if they have sex with a 13-year-old. However, some states will have a ‘close in age’ exemption to the law for teens who are under the age of consent but of a similar age. But this law varies between states.

13-year-olds do not have the emotional maturity of 16-year-olds

A lot happens development-wise between the ages of 13 and 16. The difference between a 13-year-old and 16-year-olds emotional maturity is huge. Hormones, physical development, emotional maturity, there is a vast difference between young teens and 16-year-olds. 

A 13-year-old may feel pressured to act older around their sixteen-year-old boyfriend or girlfriend. They may feel forced to partake in activities they are not ready for as they are still so young.

Your 13 year old may feel pressured by the 16-year-old they are dating to take drugs, drink alcohol or engage in sexual activity, even when they do not feel ready.

At 13, your young teen is still very much a child whereas a 16-year-old is growing and transitioning into young adulthood, this is why dating is best avoided. 

Risks of accidental pregnancy and STIs – Of course, an accidental pregnancy has the potential to happen to sexually active teens and women of any age during their fertile years.

However, the US has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the Western world, and statistics show around 3 in 10 girls will get pregnant at least once before the age of 20.

13-year-olds may not have all the necessary language or knowledge surrounding sex and contraception to ensure they are having safe sex with their 16-year-old partner.

16-year-old boys may take advantage of their younger girlfriend’s sexual inexperience and not use a condom during intercourse.

If your 13-year-old has started her periods then she can get pregnant but may not have the emotional strength to say no to her boyfriend if he wants to have sex without protection.

Having sex without a condom can also put your 13-year-old at risk of catching an STI which can be harmful to their body but may also cause bullying and shaming at school. 

13-year-olds are vulnerable to abuse

Not only is a 16-year-old much more physically developed than a 13-year-old, making them a physical threat, older teens are also more psychologically developed.

The 3-year gap in emotional maturity can leave your 13-year-old vulnerable to abuse from their 16-year-old partner. A 16-year-old may easily be able to manipulate a 13-year-old, make them do things they are not ready to do, and mistreat or gaslight them.

A 16-year-old boy is unlikely to have any trouble physically abusing a 13-year-old girl if he wants to and due to inexperience of relationships, a 13-year-old may not realize for a while that the boy she is dating is being emotionally abusive.

Studies have found there is a big leap in brain development between the ages of 13 and 16. A 16-year-old can take advantage of a 13-year-olds emotional immaturity and use her vulnerability and inexperience to fuel his abusive behavior. 

Risks of a 16-year-old driving

13-year-olds do not have a driver’s license but many 16-year-olds do. However, teenagers are still very new drivers at 16 years of age and in 2019 almost 2400 teens between the age of 13 and 19 were killed in a motor vehicle accident.

Teen drivers with fellow teens as passengers are at an increased risk of a car accident and teen drivers are at most risk during the early months of having a license.

A 13-year-old dating a 16-year-old may be a passenger in his car while he is not driving safely. Your 13-year-old could be dating a 16-year-old who drives too fast or is easily encouraged by their friends to drive dangerously.

There is also the risk of a 16 year old driving your 13-year-old somewhere and then leaving them stranded, unable to get home. 

16-year-olds could be prosecuted as a registered sex offender

It may seem like harmless puppy love, but the truth is if a 16-year-old boy dates a 13-year-old they could be prosecuted and become a registered sex offender.

Even if there has been no sexual activity, a 16-year-old could still potentially be labeled a sex offender if they date a 13-year-old as 13 is below the age of consent.

If as the parent of a 13-year-old you choose to press charges against the 16-year-old your child is dating, they could be prosecuted and their future ruined. 

Discussing Abstinence With All Children

The teenage years are for growing, learning, and transitioning into young adulthood. However, hormones and peer pressure, and the urge to grow up too fast can result in teens wanting to start dating.

However, dating during adolescence rarely ends well. People will always act surprised when they meet someone who married their high school sweetheart because teen relationships rarely go the distance.

The drama of teen relationships and the heartbreak when it ends can be really traumatic for teenagers and the breakup can be even more upsetting if sex was a part of the relationship. 

It can be really awkward and uncomfortable to discuss sex and abstinence with your children but it is essential that you have this conversation.

Abstaining from sex is the only way to avoid all risks of STIs and unwanted pregnancies. The earlier you start talking about abstinence with your child the better.

Encouraging your child to abstain from sex and giving them all the information and knowledge they need to make smart decisions when it comes to dating, will help to protect their safety and keep them from any unnecessary emotional pain.

It will feel awkward at first but it is important you begin talking to your child about sex and explain the reasons why abstinence is beneficial for both their physical and mental health. 

Tips For Talking To Teenagers About Abstinence and Sex 

Your child is going to find out about sex at some point. You can not keep the truth about the birds and the bees a secret forever.

It is much better if you share important information about sex, abstinence, and relationships with your child than them first learn about it from pornography or older teens and adults who don’t have your child’s best interests at heart. 

If you are struggling to talk to your 13-year-old or 16-year-old about sex, here are some useful tips that will help:

Start talking about it sooner rather than later

Do not wait for your teen to start dating before you start talking about sex.

Have age-appropriate conversations with your child throughout their childhood. You need to have given your child all of the important information about sex, consent, and abstinence before they start showing an interest in dating.

Arm them with all of the facts early on and they will be in a better position to make the important choices and decisions when the time comes. 

Be honest

It can be tempting to gloss over all of the gory details when it comes to talking about sex, but it is essential that you have open and honest conversations with your child.

If you won’t tell your child the truth, they will go looking for it somewhere else. It will feel awkward at times and both you and your child may feel embarrassed but you have to move past that feeling and be completely honest.

Talk to your child about the risks involved in having sex, tell them about STIs and the realities of being a teen parent. Discuss abstaining from sex until marriage, or at least until they are older and in a serious relationship.

Your child may not agree with all the points you discuss but it is important you provide them with all the facts and advice that you can. 

A mother and her teenage daughter hugging

Be Patient

Your child may not want to listen to you talk about sex and abstinence and you may have a hard time getting your message across. Take your time with these conversations and be patient with your child.

Talking about sex can feel overwhelming for preteens and children, you may have to have several conversations before your child starts to take in the information and guidance you are sharing. 

Accept the awkwardness

Talking about sex with your kids is awkward. Period. Both of you are going to feel embarrassed at times and tempted to change the topic of conversation or run and hide in a separate room! You need to accept these conversations are going to be awkward and go ahead and have them anyway. 

Listen to your child

The sex talk should not just consist of you reeling off information and advice to your child. Discussing sex and abstinence should be a two-way conversation.

Listen to your child, find out what their views are or if they have any worries or fears about sex and dating. Don’t feel like the content of this conversation rests solely on your shoulders, let your child speak and really listen to what they have to say. 

Encourage questions

Allow your child to ask as many questions as they want about dating, having sex, and abstinence. It is good for your child to open up, reassure them that you are here to listen, and will happily answer any questions they have – no matter how embarrassing they may be. 

Keep talking

Don’t just talk to your child about sex and abstinence once and never utter a word about it again. Once you have got that first conversation out of the way, continue to regularly talk to your child about relationships and sex.

By frequently talking about these topics, you are normalizing open discussions about sex and dating within your family. As your child grows up and starts dating, they will know they can turn to you if they ever have a problem or need some advice and their awkward questions will be answered. 

When Your Teenagers Don’t Listen

You may be reading this and thinking, yes these tips are great but my teenager doesn’t listen to me. The teenage years can be a tense time for parents and their children.

Your teen is approaching adulthood and wants to behave like a grown-up but they are still a child and you are still responsible for them. Your teen may think they don’t need to listen to you anymore and refuse to hear your words of wisdom and advice when it comes to dating. 

If your 13-year-old continues to date a 16-year-old behind your back, there are steps you need to take as a parent to stop this for your child’s safety.

Your 13-year-old will likely rebel and be angry that you have banned them from dating, but you need to be strong and protect your child from the risks of dating a 16-year-old. 

When your teenager doesn’t listen it can be really challenging and stressful, here are some things you can do if your 13-year-old is secretly dating a 16-year-old: 

Monitor your teen’s behavior

You can’t be with your teenager every second of the day and your child will try and push your boundaries and may even ignore the rules you have put in place.

If you have suspicions that your 13-year-old is dating a 16-year-old, be vigilant and closely monitor your teens’ behavior.

Are they acting more secretive with their phone than usual, spending more time up in their bedroom, or constantly texting someone? Keep a close eye on your young teen, if you are vigilant you should be able to notice if they are ignoring your rules about dating. 

Monitor your teen’s cell phone and whereabouts

Most teenagers have a cell phone these days but it should be monitored closely.

There are some great apps that you can use to monitor your child’s cell phone such as Bark, Find my iPhone, or Google location sharing all of which give parents the ability to check where their children are.

Some also allow parents the ability to monitor text messages, emails, and social media activity.

It may seem sneaky and make you feel uncomfortable, but if your teenager is refusing to listen and is continuing to date a 16-year-old, it may be the only way you can be sure of their whereabouts and what is really happening when they are not at home. 

Get to know their friend’s parents

Rebellious teens will often lie to their parents about their whereabouts, especially if they are seeing someone they have been banned from dating.

Get to know your child’s friend’s parents, that way you can easily call up the friend’s mom to see if your child is really there or not.

You can also more easily stay in the loop about any parties or gatherings between your teens if you forge a friendship with the other moms and dads. 

Get help from family or friends

If your child won’t listen to you, enlist a friend or other family member to talk to them about dating and sex.

As we have mentioned, children can find it just as awkward as their parents when it comes to a sex-and-relationship chat. Maybe there is an aunt, a close family friend, or an older cousin you can ask to have a talk with your teen about why dating a 16-year-old isn’t the best idea.

If your teen won’t listen to you or other friends and family, there are many celebrities and social media influencers who talk about abstinence, consent, and safe sex that may be able to get through to your teen better than anyone else.


When should you let your teenager date?

There is not a set age that is appropriate for your teen to start dating. Sixteen and seventeen-year-olds are much more emotionally mature and have more life experience than younger adolescents.

Professionals advise teenagers to avoid dating until they are at least sixteen years old.

As a parent, you can try and discourage your teen from dating but it is important to remember that teens will try and push your boundaries and will not always obey your rules.

If your teen is below the age of consent and wants to date, it is important you discuss safe sex, consent, and abstinence with them. 

Is it normal for 13-year-olds to date?

Whilst parents may feel worried and anxious about their 13-year-old dating, it is normal for children this age to be interested in dating.

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, the average age for girls to start dating is 12 and a half and 13 and a half for boys.

Every teen and pre-teen is different, some children may not show any interest in dating until they are much older and others may start thinking about dating when they are as young as 10. 

How do I stop my teenage daughter from dating?

It is natural for parents to worry about their teenagers dating. Sometimes parents want to stop their teen from dating, whether it is because they are too young or they don’t approve of the person their child is dating.

It is difficult for parents to force their teen child to stop dating as they cannot be with their child at all times and teens will often rebel and break the rules anyway.

You can talk to your teenage daughter about dating and sex, provide her with all the facts and advice she needs to be able to make safe decisions. Parents should set rules and let their teen child know there will be consequences if the rules are broken.

Monitor her online activity so you know who she is talking to online and block websites with adult content.  You may find it difficult to stop your teen from dating altogether but you can try your best to keep her safe and set some firm rules and consequences. 

The Final Thought

It is not okay for a 13-year-old to date a 16-year-old. Young teens are not as emotionally mature as 16-year-olds and they may not be able to deal with the drama and sexual pressures that can come from a ‘grown up’ relationship.

There are also legalities 16-year-olds should be aware of if they are thinking about having a relationship with a 13-year-old. 

Teenagers will be interested in dating, it is a part of growing up and it is natural for parents to be worried.

However, parents must try their best to discourage their 13-year-old from dating a 16-year-old to protect their physical and mental health. Teens will rebel and may refuse to listen to you but there are steps you can take as their loving parent to keep them safe and happy.