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Many teens in Taipei have experience with relationships: report

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Taipei City Department of Health (臺北市政府衛生局) released a report yesterday, showing a high percentage of Taipei teens are either currently in relationships or have had experience dating.

Youth in Taiwan are dating as young as elementary school — many without the knowledge of their parents.

According to a survey of 206 schools released yesterday by the Taipei City Department of Health, among upwards of 50,000 students between the ages of 10-18, 17 percent are currently in a romantic relationship — 2 percent of whom are in multiple relationships. Over 40 percent of students choose to hide their relationships from their parents, with girls more likely to do so than boys.

Around 21 percent of older elementary students, 28 percent of middle school students and 48 percent of high school students have already had a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Young Relationships Soared in Recent Years

According to clinical psychologist Lin I-chun (林怡君) of Taiwan Adventist Hospital (臺安醫院), though parents might be surprised by the findings, children can't help but be interested in experimenting with their emotions, encouraged as they are by the constant bombardment of the Internet and visual media. As opposed to the same survey conducted in 2007, a clear increase emerged in the number of dating experiences observed within pre-teens and teenagers.

Lin also remarked that the survey found that over 40 percent of teens choose to hide their relationship from their parents, and when faced with relationship problems, children tend to seek counsel and confide in the likes of friends, classmates and sometimes siblings. Less than a fifth of student respondents will turn to their parents for advice.

Analysis shared by Lin reveals that the more open and positive parents are toward supporting teenage relationships, the more likely children will be up front about theirs. Lin advised parents to be more accepting toward teenage infatuation and to encourage their children to introduce their boyfriend or girlfriend to the family and to be open-minded about having talks and discussions about self-protection both physically and emotionally.

Lin's final suggestion to parents is that children who receive more than three hours a day of quality time with their parents are more likely to understand their parents. Lin strongly suggests that parents refrain from criticizing the physiques of their teenagers, as it is damaging to a child's emotional development. Parents must help their children build up confidence and avoid instilling insecurities in them, Lin added.

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