How can I help my teen son have girls as friends without the pressures of dating?
The teen social dynamic has changed toward more of a group mentality. Boys and girls often attend proms in groups, not couples. Going to movies is done en masse, too, and nobody has to pay for anyone else. They like to meet at a neutral place where all involved have an escape plan—especially if someone has a meltdown or commits a major faux pas.
I like these new strategies that allow young people some flexibility and an opportunity to test the dating waters gingerly. They've got their entire lives to hook up and discover the opposite sex, so the groups are a great way to go.
One another note: Given sports and other extracurricular requirements, like the community service work that is required on most college applications, teens don't seem to have as much time to get after-school jobs (or have family dinners, but that's another story). Therefore, the lack of funds prevents many boys from taking out girls the old-school way. I still like the current trend because it encourages girls to think about financial independence and get realistic about what it costs to support themselves.