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Welcome to the The Cap – our very own recap series of the topics and trends impacting teens and tweens today dedicated to keeping the common parent in the know.
📮 In today's Issue, we cover:
What is it ?
Dating among teens looks different today than when we were teens. And so does the terminology. A great example of the changing times is hookup culture - the basic idea that young people may engage in sex without dating. 
Hookup culture accepts and encourages casual physical and sexual encounters, one-night stands and other related activity without necessarily including emotional intimacy, bonding or a committed relationship.

The majority of teens today report that they've participated in or know someone who has participated in hooking up without being in a relationship with the other person. In fact, if you have a teen in college, chances are they know the difference between a “situationship,” “friends with benefits” and a “sneaky link.”

🚨 Why it matters
Many teens are being exposed to the idea that hookup culture is the norm. This can create a feeling for already impressionable teens that they are not “normal” unless they also jump onboard and engage in hookup culture.
There are, of course, the physical consequences to casual hookups and sex, like unintended pregnancy and STDs. But, the emotional toll that a hookup mindset and hookup culture can have on teens is real as well. The prefrontal cortex of a teen’s brain 🧠 is not yet fully formed, so it’s often not until after the fact that teens realize they've gotten in over their heads or done something they wish they hadn’t. 
In numerous studies, the majority of both boys and girls report that they experience regret after casual sex. In some cases, a teen may go into a hook up scenario hoping it will turn into dating the other person only to have the relationship be limited to casual physical and sexual encounters.
Yes, people turn to hookups because it gives them a feeling of euphoria with no strings attached. However, hookup culture can be especially confusing for teenagers.  It can cause disconnection from oneself through engaging in casual hookups and sexual encounters only because one thinks they should or because the other person wants to. So one’s mind, body and heart aren’t in it together. This can be quite a complex dynamic for an adolescent, mind to work through…on top of all of the other hormones, emotions, feelings and changes teens are already experiencing.

🎒 The Cap
Yes, there are teens who want casual hookups, but there are also teens who do not want casual hookups but participate in them anyways — not because they want to, but because they feel it is their only option as hookup culture and mindset becomes more and more normalized. 
📱Dating Apps’ Impact on Hookup Culture
The popularization of dating apps like Tinder, Hinge and Bumble have undeniably impacted hookup culture. With these dating apps putting so many options at your fingertips, the possibilities for finding casual sex has grown exponentially. As have opportunities to engage in casual sex with multiple partners. Tinder is often categorized as a dating app, but studies have shown that 80% of male and 55% of female college students use Tinder for hookups.
🎬 🎵 Mainstream Media’s Impact on Hookup Culture
Some of today’s most popular artists, songs, shows, movies also normalize hookups and sex, which can blur the line between normalization and glamorization for most…especially teens. The current media and entertainment landscape tends to push the narrative that both your sex life and love life should be active in order to fit into society.
🤳 Social Media’s Impact on Hookup Culture
Facebook was originally built as a platform ranking the “hotness” of girls in college. So it's no wonder that Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, TikTok and others also play an interesting role in the way digital media is used to describe sex and dating now. As people become more and more comfortable with sharing intimate personal details on the internet, further pushing hookup culture as a norm.

☀️ The Good News
Some studies and data indicate that the numbers of teens participating in hookup culture are exaggerated. Many experts agree that, despite the widespread perception, teens aren’t having any more sex today than they did 20 years ago.
Talking about sex can be tough enough on parents and teens without adding a layer of casual encounters and dangers of hookup culture to it.  While your kids might act like they don't want to discuss the topic with you, most of them actually crave the dialogue. As with so many teen issues, an honest conversation is the best way to tackle the subject. 

Take the extra step beyond “traditional sex talk” about the “birds and the bees” and clue them in on the fact you are aware that times have changed, that you know about hookup culture and the pressures it puts on them and reinforce the concept of caring, respectful and healthy relationships rather than ones based solely on sexual encounters.

Sources on Hookup Culture:

Founders of The Common Parent: Catherine Belknap and Natalie Telfer (Cat & Nat)
The Cap Contributors:  Catherine Belknap, Natalie Telfer, Kelly Kresen, Josee Telfer, Cath Tassie and Allie Coughlin
Special Thanks to Lisa Wade

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