For teens, dating lines are blurred

We've all heard gossip on and off campus: "so-and-so is dating so-and-so" or "so-and-so is going out with so-and-so."

The two phrases are often used interchangeably, but in the minds of many teens, there's a difference. The problem is getting them to agree on what that difference is.

"Dating" and "going out" are terms we use almost every day, and we each give them our own meaning.

"Going out is having fun with people," said Jessica Gillette, a junior at Modesto High School. "But dating is a commitment to one person."

For the most part, teens thought the phrases described stages in a relationship.

Nearly half the people interviewed thought that dating was the friendly stage of a relationship that led up to the "going out" phase. But just as many thought the opposite, that going out led to dating.

Still others used the terms synonymously.

"Dating is asking a girl to go out to something," said Daniel Barksdale, a sophomore at Downey High School.

Lauren Leverone, sophomore at Modesto High School, said: "Teens my age don't date. We don't have cars. Our parents wouldn't let us anyway."

Driving seems to be an issue in relationships.

"When you can't drive, it's going out," said Kyle Mendes, a sophomore at Modesto High School. "When you can, it's dating. Other than that they're the same."

It's important to define and understand the two terms. A lot can happen to the relationship if one person is on a different stage than the other person.

It would be awkward to tell others you're "dating" so-and-so, because so-and-so could just be "going out" with you. This is an awkward thing to bring up in a relationship, but is definitely a good idea.

Confused? We haven't even touched on the term "just friends" yet.

To teens, it's natural to think that if a boy and girl have a relationship, they must be boyfriend and girlfriend. This is unfair to the couple because they could just as easily be "just friends" -- which is when people "aren't dating or going out, but aren't enemies," as Megan Mizuno, a sophomore at Modesto High School, puts it.

Tim Day is sophomore at Modesto High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom journalism program.