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THE flirtatious glances and giggling whispers that punctuate lunchroom chatter at the Ardsley Middle School would be unremarkable for seventh- and eighth-grade students practicing dating skills.
What is remarkable is that the exchanges are taking place between 10- and 11-year-old fifth graders, many arranging dates for a Saturday night movie, discussing plans for boy-girl parties or gossiping about who is pairing off with whom.
For parents reluctant to allow their children to date unchaperoned at 14, such social precocity in the early teen-age set is disconcerting.
For youngsters who would prefer pastimes like board games or Roller Blading, the pressure to conform with more socially advanced peers can be daunting.
And for teachers and guidance counselors who observe the effects of such behavior in the classroom, the lunchroom and the halls, the situation can be disturbing."This is the first year where I've seen a group so involved in the dating issue so early," said Toni Ullman-Lorenzo, a guidance counselor at the Ardsley Middle School. It's about 'owning' someone and wanting to have someone so that they will be popular.
"Before, at this age you'd see more friendship. These kids think they're having a relationship, but they're not old enough to have a relationship. Many of them are so busy working that they don't have the opportunity or time to talk to one another about these issues.
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