Is 12 Too Young to Start Dating?

What do kids really think about dating and sex?

CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller chatted about it with group of middle-schoolers and high-school freshmen from Hackensack, N.J.

She says those views aren't what they used to be regarding the appropriate age to begin to date.

"I think it doesn't really matter about age too much, if you feel like a relationship could mean something to you," said Jane, 14.

The general consensus from the group was that 12 seems to be a good age to begin dating. However, Miller finds that, at that age, the word dating means very different things to different people.

Middle-schooler Giovanni, said, "Some people just hang out with their boyfriend or girlfriend. They hug them and kiss them. But some people get sexual about it."

Statistics show that 46 percent of teens between the ages of 15-19 have had sex at least once. Teens are exposed to intimate relationships early on.

"I've seen pregnant girls walking around the hall. I've heard people talk about doing 'it.' I've heard cases of people doing it in the school. It's just overwhelming," said Ted, 15.

Miller was joined on "The Early Show" Wednesday by Linda Fears, editor in chief of Family Circle magazine and Momster.com, as well as Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, an adolescent and child psychologist, to discuss what they think is appropriate when it comes teens, dating, and sex.

Fears said, "The truth is there isn't a right age. You really have to know your child. You have to have had lots of conversations about this so they're aware of your expectations, your family values."

While sex is one thing to be concerned about, Miller was also concerned about the ability of these kids to develop emotional relationships because of the frequency of hooking up and casual encounters.

Fears said, "It's made to be casual to them because it is everywhere. It's in movies, on TV, all over the Internet, and in music lyrics. Sex is all around them 24/7. And so they've become really desensitized to it."

Hartstein said, "We want to each our kids that it's really not just about sex. It's really about relationships and caring for another person. And building love between two people. Because we get so focused on the sex part, we forget that the relationship comes in behind it, and our kids are missing some of that."

She added that there's no definite answer or a set age parents can agree on to allow their children to begin dating. When it comes down talking to your children about relationships, sex, and intimacy, it is never too early, she says , suggesting that parents should "have as many teachable moments, have as many opportunities to discuss it as possible."
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