How Digital Dating Abuse Is Affecting Teens

New research shares how dating violence among youth is manifesting online.

Posted Feb 14, 2020

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What is digital dating abuse?

Digital dating abuse is abusive behavior that occurs between partners via text messages, social media, or related online media.

Cyberbullying Research Center founders Sameer Hinduja and Justin Patchin recently released their research paper entitled, “Digital Dating Abuse Among a National Sample of U.S. Youth” in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence to illuminate how dating violence is manifesting online.

According to this study, over the past year more than a quarter of teens, or 28.1 percent, have been a victim of some form of digital dating abuse.

How does a partner or significant other harm their victim?

  • Go through their device without their permission.
  • Keep them from using their device.
  • Steal their device.
  • Threaten them via text.
  • Post something publicly online to embarrass or threaten them.
  • Post private pictures of them without their permission.

And it's not only online abuse—35.9 percent of participants also said they’ve been a victim of at least one form of offline dating abuse such as being pushed, grabbed, shoved, hit, threatened physically, called names, or being prevented from doing something they wanted to do.

When it comes to gender, almost one-third of boys (32.3 percent) were likely to have experienced digital dating abuse compared to just less than a quarter of girls (23.6 percent).  

Teens, Sexting, and Depression

In an age where sending nudes and sexting has become normalized, the current research finds that participants who had sent a “sext” were five times more likely to be targeted for online relationship abuse than teens who hadn’t sexted.

There are studies that continue to reveal that cyberbullying, online harassment and other forms of cyber-abuse can contribute to teen depression. Students who reported depressive symptoms were about four times as likely to have experienced digital dating abuse.

Being an Educated Parent

Education is key to having safer and healthier teens both online and offline. In today's times of evolving technology, it's important that we take an interest in our young people's digital lives. We may never be as cyber-savvy as they are, but they will always need our parenting wisdom.

“As we observe ‘Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month,’ we are hopeful that our research will provide more information on the context, contributing factors, and consequences of these behaviors,” said Hinduja. “Gaining a deeper understanding of the emotional and psychological mind-set and the situational circumstances of current-day adolescents may significantly inform the policy and practice we need to develop to address this form and all forms of dating abuse.” —FAU News Desk

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