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Many dating teens are targets of digital

abuse and harassment
A new study indicates that technology is often used to control and
intimidate dating partners and increases risks for other forms of dating
violence.
by Janet Olsen, Michigan State University Extension

Chances are that most young people don’t enter romantic relationships expecting that
they’ll be the target of unhealthy behaviors from their romantic partner. But far too many
teens experience verbal, physical, sexual and emotional abuse and harassment by their
dating partners. These experiences can have serious short-term outcomes for the
young people involved. They can also result in damaging long-term impactssuch as
mental health issues, substance abuse and lowered academic performance.
Recent Michigan State University research has also linked being the victim of
adolescent dating violence to lowered economic status in adulthood.
Technology such as social networking sites, texts, cell phones and email play a
significant role in dating abuse experiences for both middle school and high school
students. A study recently released by theUrban Institute Justice Policy Center showed
that one in four dating teens had been abused or harassed online or through texts from
their partners. These forms of harassment often take place away from school property
and outside of school hours – in other words, a young person can be targeted around
the clock through technology by an abusive partner.
Teens reported that the most common forms of digital abuse and harassment involved
their partner tampering with their social networking account without their permission,
sending them degrading and threatening messages, pressuring them to share sexual
photos and sending large numbers of messages. The study results also showed that
teens targeted though technological abuse were at higher risk for other forms of dating
abuse; they were two times as likely to be physically abused, 2.5 times as likely to be
psychologically abused, and five times as likely to be sexually coerced.
Many experts say that the most effective solutions for preventing teen dating violence
involve raising awareness about these issues and providing education for both young
people and the adults in their lives (parents and other caregivers, school staff, youth
workers and volunteers, etc.). Helpful and caring adults can provide ongoing
conversations with teens about healthy and unhealthy romantic relationships and
share strategies and expectations about using technology in healthy ways. Adults can
also make it clear that they are available as trusting and non-judgmental resources for
teens that might be experiencing harassment and abuse. This includes sharing
information about helpful source.