Should seven-year-olds have a boyfriend?
Should eight and nine-year-olds be dating?
Is it innocent role-playing or something we should be concerned about?
It’s not a new issue but it is one that has been cropping up at the school my children attend.
The usual games of he’s-my-boyfriend seem to have morphed into dating, with children – and that’s what they are children – going out on evening dates as couples.
I wasn’t alone in being shocked.
When I was at primary school I was one of the rare kids who was blithely unaware of the pretend boyfriend/ girlfriend scenarios going on around me. I vaguely remember a few games of catch and kiss in second grade but I was too interested in playing elastics to bother with trying to get Richard Andrew’s attention - unlike many of the other young girls around me.
So I was surprised when my eight-year-old came home the other day and told me that his best friend was "in love".
In love with two girls apparently and the friend had offered my son 30c if he could set them up - with either of them - the eight-year-old boy wasn't bothered.
He had cast my son as an eight-year-old Osher of sorts.
My son's method of being cupid was to tell the said two girls that "Romeo" was in love with them and did they "wanna get married?"
In this version of The Primary School Bachelor there were no flowing gowns and no dim lights. No candles. No rose ceremony.
And sadly both girls said no.
Turns out though there were more yeses being said in year three, where “going out” is rife. When I quizzed a friend’s nine-year-old daughter about it – worried about what the future holds for my kids – she told me that "all the girls had a boyfriend", except her as she wasn’t interested.
Though her next sentence threw me.
“It gets really awkward when they kiss” she told me.
Wait. What. Nine-year-olds are kissing?
After further investigation I heard that they are also dating – being driven out to the movies, chaperoned – nine-year-old couples.
Personally I found the idea horrific. They are too young. It makes me feel that we are imposing adult concepts on children far too young. I wonder if they are “dating”, going to the movies as a “couple” at the age of nine what will they be doing at the age of twelve? And then what does the future hold?
There is so much time for that.
WATCH this adorable girl learned that she isn't allowed to have a boyfriend. Post continues after video...
A Canadian study from 2013 found that boys or girls who start dating by the age of 11 put themselves in an at risk category for risky behaviours. Child daters are twice as likely to have unsafe sex, use alcohol, lie and cheat.
The study, published in the journal Adolescence highlighted the problems linked to early-starting romantic development.
At the age of eight my eldest hasn’t the first clue what dating actually is, but he is rapidly heading into year three soon and if that’s what happening in that year then I really do have fears.
I opened up to a friend with children a few years older than mine about my concerns, my fears, my worries, how I was simply shitting myself and she looked at me seriously, paused for a moment and laughed.
She asked me if I was actually serious and told me I was being ridiculous. She assured me that for these children it was a game, akin to playing chasing or doctors and nurses (now that got me worried again). She told me that it was great that children at the age of nine were friends with both boys and girls and it was part of a normal healthy childhood.
She also told me that while playing boyfriends and girlfriends at the age of seven, eight or nine was nothing to worry about I only had a few years of not worrying. Come 11,12 and 13 I was then allowed to worry and worry a lot.
While I am still slightly concerned about the fact they are dating, she has eased my fears a lot.
What do you think about nine-years-olds "dating"?