Teen dating violence or TDV continues to be a serious problem in the United States. TDV affects millions of teenagers across the country. The abuse can take many forms, including physical violence, stalking, sexual violence, and psychological aggression.
Approximately 1 in 11 girls and 1 in 14 boys in high school reported dating violence during the last year. With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting physical contact, the incidents of digital abuse have increased, with boys appearing to be most affected by digital abuse.
What is Digital Dating Abuse?
Digital dating abuse involves using technology to harass a romantic partner. The intent is to control, intimidate, coerce, threaten, or annoy them. Because of the increase in social media platforms and digital communication options, teens have access to numerous tools for digital dating abuse.
A recent study revealed that boys were more likely to have experienced digital dating abuse than girls. The difference was significant, 32.3 percent of males versus 23.6 percent of females.
According to the lead author, males may try to contain their aggressive impulses when dealing with disputes with girlfriends. On the other hand, females may use more violence on their boyfriends as they try to solve relationship problems.
Almost one-third of teens who had been involved in a romantic relationship in the previous year reported they had been the victim of digital dating abuse.
Examples of digital dating abuse include:
- Going through a person’s cell phone or electronic devices without permission
- Being threatened via text messaging
- Posting things online to make fun of, embarrass, or threaten a partner
- Partners preventing partners from using their devices
- Posting or sharing private pictures without permission
More than one-third of the teens had also experienced at least one form of offline or traditional dating abuse, such as verbal abuse, shoving, criticizing, and hitting.
Researchers also found a high number (81 percent) of teens who experienced digital dating abuse also experienced traditional dating abuse. Also, students who were victims of dating abuse offline were 18 times more likely to experience digital dating abuse than students who had not been victims of offline dating abuse.
The Urban Institute is also looking at digital dating abuse. Digitizing Abuse is a project that studies the role of technology in dating abuse, teen bullying, and harassment. It found that 25 percent of dating teens report being the victims of digital abuse. Only nine percent of victims seek help.
A third of digital abuse victims reported being sexually coerced, and 84 percent said they were also psychologically abused. Just over half of the victims of digital dating abuse said they were also physically abused.
How Can We Help Teens Stop Digital Dating Abuse?
Given that teenagers are attached to their digital devices, it can be difficult to monitor what is said and sent over those devices. Parents need to be vigilant in educating their teens about the dangers of dating abuse, including digital dating abuse. Having an honest dialogue with teenagers is the first step in reducing the risk of digital dating abuse.
Ideas for topics of conversation include:
Think Before You Hit Send
Many teens are more comfortable communicating through text messages and other digital formats. However, there is a higher risk that the recipient may misinterpret what is said over digital formats. Reread messages before sending them to reduce the risk of misunderstandings.
Locations May be Shared Through Various Apps and Social Media
Constantly posting and chatting online gives someone the ability to stalk your every move. If you feel uncomfortable because your partner is demanding to know where you are at all times, it could indicate that you are in a toxic relationship. Do not feel pressured to tell your partner where you are at all times or allow your partner to use tracking apps to keep up with your locations.
Watch for Passive-Aggressiveness and Guilt Trips
Social media is the perfect platform for using passive-aggressive remarks, memes, images, and GIFs. If your partner uses backhanded remarks to criticize you or make you feel guilty, it is time to re-evaluate whether you are in a healthy relationship.
Set Healthy Boundaries for Digital Communication
You and your partner do not need to be in touch 24/7 through your cell phone or other digital devices. You have work, school, and social activities outside of your relationship. That is a sign of a healthy relationship.
Set healthy boundaries for communicating. If your partner does not immediately respond to a text, message, or call, do not “blow up” their phone or track them.
For more topics to discuss with your teenager about teen dating abuse, you can visit our blog page. Our library contains numerous blogs about teen dating violence and how you can help your teen avoid becoming a victim.