Dear Dr. Wallace:

I am a dark-skinned teen who will be spending a lot of time outdoors the rest of this summer. Is it necessary for me to use sunscreen when I’m in the sun? I don’t think I will get sunburned, even if I spend a lot of time outdoors each day in the summertime. However, my girlfriend is always telling me to still use sunscreen. She always has some with her, and she puts it on every single time she is in the sun for any extended period of time, even though her skin is similar to mine. But is this really necessary for me? I’m not so sure.

— Fun in the Sun,

via email

Dear Fun In The Sun: For people of lighter complexions, the risk of sun damage is much greater than for people with darker complexions. However, any skin, regardless of its natural color, can be harmed by overexposure to the sun. You risk premature wrinkles and skin cancer if you don’t wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15. You should also wear a hat to protect your face whenever you plan to be in direct sunlight for many hours at a time.

Given her sharp mind and the way she looks out for you, I like and respect your girlfriend already! My advice? Follow her advice.

Dear Dr. Wallace: I’m 14 and want to start dating, but my mom feels I should wait until I’m 17. I think 17 is out of the question; that’s so old! I’ll be an old maid by that time. All of my girlfriends are dating, and many are already going steady with nice boys. I’m the fish out of water in my social group at school, and I don’t enjoy it one bit. Also, if I don’t hurry, all the good boys in my class will be taken already.

What age do you think I should start dating? My mom said that if you answer my question differently than she did, she would take what you say into consideration. She did not promise that she will go 100% with your advice, but she did say she will very seriously consider your take on the subject and then rethink what her ultimate decision may be.

I feel that’s a good step in the right direction, but I really need you to answer my letter here or else I’ll be stuck with her current decision. Please, please reply to me!

— Want to Date Sooner Than 17, via email

Want To Date Sooner: Parents should allow their teens to date when they rate high marks in the areas of reliability, trust, honesty, dependability, attitude and common sense. Some teens possess the maturity to date at age 14, while others don’t even have these valuable traits by age 17. Most teens, however, begin dating at 15 or 16, often with parental supervision or with a chaperone present. I do condone both of these methods of initial oversight for a teen of either gender who is beginning to date for the first time. Dating plays a very important role in a teen’s social maturation. Parents should meet their teen’s dates beforehand and discuss the particulars:

Where will you be going? How will you get there? What time will you be home? Who will be with you? What do you plan to do on the date? Teens who are resistant to this oversight indicate they lack the maturity to date.

Now, as to your mother, I trust she knows a lot more about your particular level of maturity than I do. She obviously has your best interests at heart and will make her decisions accordingly. Your job is to show her as much maturity, honesty and reliability as you can. Offer to start out very slowly — no matter what age she selects for you — and even suggest that a chaperone is present at first, as this may be reassuring to your mom.

I advise you to do all you can to get started slowly with dating and to do it on your mom’s terms.

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.