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” Catherine: “OK.” The two Toronto-area teens have been going out since last April, although rarely on their own.

Here’s our look at teen dating in the 21st century.The gang’s all here Going out with your significant other with all your mutual friends in tow is such a common phenomenon across the country that academics have started researching it.Eleven-year-old Charles, a bright, sociable, engaging sixth-grader in the Toronto area, was shocked to hear last spring that a buddy’s school in a nearby town would be hosting a grade-five dance.“I think that’s just ridiculous,” says Charles, who doesn’t feel ready for that kind of intimacy with girls.“We call it group dating, and we believe it can be really healthy and protective,” says Jennifer Connolly, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto who specializes in teen relationships.

Connolly, who has two adolescent daughters of her own, says that group dating is growing in popularity everywhere, including China and India.

“At this age we’re always fighting with our parents, so we need to feel we’re loved.” She’s quick to add that while she and her boyfriend love each other, they’re not . ” This is the new world of teen dating, and it can be almost unrecognizable to many parents.

Long gone is the tradition where a boy phones a girl on Tuesday to ask her out for Saturday, picks her up at her house, meets the parents, pays for dinner and a show, and sees her home.

“If I get bored [on a date], my friends keep things interesting,” Katie says.

The downside for parents: You may not even be aware that your child has a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Here is how 14-year-old Catherine started going out with the guy who is now her boyfriend.