1. People & Relationships

Dating Safely: 7 Tips For Staying Safe While Having Fun

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You've met someone who's cute, fascinating and interested in you. Congratulations! Here are some tips to help that first date--or the fiftieth one--go smoothly and safely.

1. Date People You Know and Trust

While it's not always practical to become friends before dating someone, try to get to know your date through a group activity or a double-date before you go solo. You'll see how your date-to-be gets along with others, and you'll get some good clues about what to expect from them.

If you can't hang out in a group before your first date, try to talk on the phone before you make plans to go out. Getting to know your love interest before you go on a full-fledged date gives you more to talk about and less to feel awkward about when you spend time as a couple.

2. Be Extra Careful About Meeting People Online

If the person you'd like to date is someone you met online, insist on meeting them in person first, and bring a friend along. Ask lots of questions to be sure that the person you're meeting is who they claimed to be online.

Trust your instincts: If something doesn't seem right about the person, do not share your contact information and leave the situation immediately.

3. Talk To Your Parents

Never go on a date without telling someone else. Even if it's a little annoying, let your mom, dad or another adult know when you’re going out. Be sure to tell your parents who you're going with, where you plan to go and what time you expect to return home, too.

It's a good policy to bring your cell phone along, if you have one, and to leave your date's phone number with your parents, just in case anything goes wrong. Be prepared for the unexpected: You might need a ride home, some extra cash or a way to bail if your date is a dud.

4. Know Your Limits and Communicate Them

Review your personal values and hopes for the date before leaving the house. Be sure to let the person you're dating know what makes you comfortable, what makes you uncomfortable and what kinds of things you'd like to avoid on your date, whether it's sex, alcohol or spicy foods. Let your date know what kinds of things you would like to do, too! Plus, be sure you know and respect your date's limits as well.

If you feel uncomfortable about a situation, say "no" clearly and confidently. You're always allowed to change your mind about something, too. If someone likes and respects you, they'll back off. Don't worry: They will most likely ask you out again. If your date doesn't respect your decision, stay safe by leaving the situation.

5. Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

Drugs and alcohol compromise your ability to make smart decisions and to escape dangerous situations. They can make you take risks you wouldn't usually take with your body, your car and your safety in general. They also prevent you from getting to know what your date is really like and keep your date from getting to know the real you.

If you feel you must have a drink on a date or at a party, keep an eye on your glass at all times: Many teens are sexually assaulted after someone slips a powerful sedative drug into whatever they're drinking. Resisting the urge to drink is the best way to prevent getting hurt and having to deal with the consequences of unwanted sex.

6. Go Out, Don't Hang Out

Getting out of the house for dates is always a good goal, especially if it's your first date with somebody. Not only is it safer to hang out in a public place such as a restaurant, movie theater or coffee shop, it's fun to discover new places with someone else. Going out rather than hanging out tells your date that you think they're special and want to explore the world--not just the cable channels--with them.

If you want to spend some time alone with the person you're seeing, wait until you've had a few dates and have set ground rules for alone time. Even if your date wants to stroll through an empty park or make out in the car, you don't have to go along with it. Trust your gut, and don't be afraid to say no and call it a night.

7. Know The Warning Signs of Dating Violence and Relationship Abuse

Dating violence is extremely common among teens. Even if your partner is charming and sweet at first, look out for signs of abusive relationships, such as:

• isolating you from friends and family
• having angry outbursts
• blaming others for problems
• threatening to hurt you during arguments
• getting extremely jealous for no reason
• acting cruel toward animals or children
• trying to control you by belittling your values or ideas.

If these warning signs sound like someone you're dating, take a step back and reevaluate the relationship. If you need help figuring out what to do, talk to a school guidance counselor, social worker, teacher, pastor or domestic violence hotline. You are not alone!

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