For teens and young adults, dating can be exciting, fun, and lighthearted. However, for some teens, their relationships are plagued with violence, control, jealousy, and humiliation. Teen dating violence is more common than you think: 1.5 million high school students across the country experience abuse by a partner each year. In the age of technology, the internet has presented new challenges as teens and young adults take their relationships online. In fact, most relationships have some sort of online or digital presence. From googling a crush, to launching a relationship on social media, to texting a partner from across the room, technology has altered how we form and manage romantic relationships. How has the digital age evolved in dating violence and affected our teens? Digital dating abuse has become common amongst our teens and young adults.
What is Digital Dating Abuse?
Digital dating abuse involves the use of technology (smartphone, social media, tracking apps, etc.) to repetitively threaten, harass, or intimidate a romantic partner. As teens begin relationships and learn about the dating world, their risk of experiencing dating violence increases. Emotions can run high in teen relationships, and adolescents are still building skills to deal with intense emotions. Digital dating violence continues to be under reported and the personal, yet public, nature of digital abuse takes a toll on teens’ mental and emotional health.
What Does Digital Dating Abuse Look Like?
Perpetrators of digital dating abuse can be creative in their abuse, and often feel empowered by the protection of being behind a screen. With so many apps and platforms, there are endless ways to be abused online. Examples of digital dating abuse include:
- Sending you an excessive number of messages, even when you’re at school, work, sleeping, or otherwise occupied and unable to respond, then getting angry when you don’t respond right away.
- Messaging you insulting, negative, or threatening messages online.
- Keeping tabs on you through social media and other sites where you can check in or update statuses.
- Requiring you to download a GPS tracking app or insisting you share your location with one another on Find My Friends.
- Creating fake social media accounts to anonymously spy on you or trick you.
- Demanding you share your passwords to phones, computers, and other accounts.
- Hacking you and impersonating you online, often posting things that create issues for you.
- Posting humiliating or insulting content about you online.
- Going through your phone or other forms of technology.
- Pressuring you to send sexual photos or videos.
- Sending you unwanted sexual photos or videos.
Combatting Digital Dating Abuse
Providing teens with the education and support they need to successfully navigate the digital world minimizes their chance of becoming victims of digital dating abuse. Parents must have honest and open conversations with their children about relationships and online safety. Share the following tips with teens in your life to empower responsible use of technology:
- Remember you have the right to a healthy relationship with a partner who makes you feel safe and respected.
- Be mindful of sharing your location, checking in online, and tagging places, people, or locations in your posts.
- Don’t share your passwords with anyone and use two factor authorization when possible.
- Be aware that you lose control of content when you hit send; avoid sharing anything private through digital platforms.
- Talk to a trusted adult and utilize the resources below if you feel you may be experiencing digital dating abuse.
If you or someone you know is experiencing digital dating abuse, you’re not alone. You can talk, text, and online chat about your concerns and options at loveisrespect.org. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available all hours at 800-799-7233. The Fairfax County 24-Hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline can be reached at 703-360-7273. For more information regarding teen dating violence, teen relationships, and love, visit loveisrespect.org.