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Digital Dating Abuse

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

The pandemic these past two years has created a lot of new challenges and expectations for all of us. With dating violence, one new trend that has increased is “digital dating abuse.” Although this has always existed, studies have shown a huge increase in this type of abuse. Gender roles do not appear to factor in when it comes to victims and abusers.

Digital dating abuse involves using technology like your phone, iPad, or video games to harass a romantic partner. It’s used in a way to control, intimidate, threaten, or annoy. Because of the increase in social media platforms and digital communication options, teens have access to numerous tools for digital dating abuse.

Here are some examples:

  • Partners preventing partners from using their devices

  • Posting or sharing private pictures without permission

  • Posting embarrassing pictures or videos of the other person

  • Going through their devices without their permission

  • Sending uninvited sexual pictures

  • Feeling pressured to send sexual pictures

  • When a partner creates a profile in your name without your permission

  • When your partners dictate who you can and cannot be friends with on social media

  • Partner insisting you take down certain apps on your phone

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. More than one-third of teens have also experienced at least one form of offline or traditional dating abuse, such as verbal abuse, shoving, criticizing, or hitting. Almost 81% percent of victims are also victims of other types of dating abuse such as physical abuse or sexual coercion.

What can be done?

Parents need to have open and honest communication with their teens. If you notice that your teen is apprehensive when they are on their phone or make comments that their partner is upset with them because they didn't text back right away or answer their call, then these can be some red flags. Also talk with teens about setting healthy boundaries. Their partner should not have to know where they are at every second of the day. Let your teen know that this is not healthy and is quite controlling.

Teens need to learn to establish healthy boundaries at the beginning and throughout their relationships. Talk to them about why it’s unhealthy for someone to dictate to them who they can talk to, where they can go and why they should never give their passwords to anyone other than their parents ( if required). Set boundaries on their technology so that they are not always so easily accessible since a controlling partner will take advantage of this.

Teaching teens how to set boundaries is an important life skill and establishing a safe place of communication is equally as important because they should feel that they have someone they can talk to without judgement that will help them navigate a potentially abusive partner.

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