"Acceptable" is such a loose term, so it's hard to say what is "acceptable" for any given person. After all, everyone is a different individual and their situations and maturity will vary greatly. Something that is acceptable for one person may not be acceptable for another.
Also keep in mind 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV), which says, "'I have the right to do anything,' you say—but not everything is beneficial. 'I have the right to do anything'—but not everything is constructive." We have many freedoms through Christ, but that doesn't mean that everything will be healthy or good for you.
First of all, if your parents have said that you are not allowed to date, then you must obey their rules. Proverbs 1:8 says, "Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching..." Colossians 3:20 says, "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord."
If they have said that it's OK, then you move onto the second thing, which is evaluating your motivations. Why do you want to have a boyfriend or girlfriend? What is it about having one that attracts you to the idea? Do you want a romantic relationship that could lead to marriage? Or are you just trying to have fun?
If your reasons for wanting to date are merely for selfish gain or personal happiness, then those are honestly unhealthy motivations. Relationships are not about US; they are about serving someone else. If a girl just wants a boyfriend so she has someone to tell her she's pretty and take her to prom, that's a selfish reason. If a guy just wants a girlfriend so his friends will stop hassling him about being a single virgin, then that's a selfish reason.
Romans 12:9-10 says that we should "let love be genuine" and to "love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." Our love should not be selfish or self-serving but rather kind and patient (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Well, it looks a lot like a really awesome friendship actually—a friendship with another believer (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). It looks like you becoming such close friends with someone that you would call that person your best friend. It looks like a friend who cares just as much about you as you do about them (Romans 12:9-10). It looks like a trust between a guy and a girl that knows no bounds and is focused on loving the way God intended (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). It looks like two best friends who respect each other enough to encourage one another in their faith and stand behind their morals and convictions to remain physically pure (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Our first commitment should be to the Lord (Matthew 10:37), then those in need, then romance can come in later. Yes, romance is a lovely thing, and God designed marriage so that a man and woman could enjoy each other for a lifetime. But if you are not in a position to pursue marriage, then dating may simply be a distraction that takes away your focus from growing in your relationship with God.
Is a dating relationship going to help you do that at this point in your life? If not, or if it would cause you to get distracted from what God wants you to do, then this is probably not a good time for you to start dating. If a boyfriend or girlfriend becomes your "everything," then you're putting your romance before God (Galatians 5:20; Colossians 3:5).
Dating or courting or whatever you want to call it can be a great way to solidify an already super strong friendship if your parents have given their blessing, God is at the center, and you are both ready to step it up. If you want to shoot for a lifelong, God-honoring union with your best friend, then that is when you know it's time to start a romance (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5).
It would be unwise to come up with an arbitrary age to start dating. Our first commitment should be to the Lord (Matthew 10:37), then those in need, then romance can come in later. If you are not in a position to pursue marriage, then dating may be a distraction that takes away your focus from growing in your relationship with God. However, if your parents have given their blessing, God is at the center, and you are ready to shoot for a lifelong, God-honoring union with your best friend, then it may be an appropriate time to start a romance (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5).
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.