~ By Colette
The use of technology was one aspect we did not have room to cover in our newest issue on adolescent dating violence. In 2007 Liz Claiborne, Inc released a report (based on an online survey and interviews with teens) about teen dating violence and technology, including cell phones and computers.
Of those teens who had been in a relationship:
- a third (36%) reported that their boyfriend or girlfriend had checked up on them 10, 20, or 30 times per day via cell phone (for example, asking where he/she is, or who he/she is with)
- 30% reported their boyfriend or girlfriend used email or text messaging to check up on them 10, 20, or 30 times per hour
- 17% said their boy/girl friend had made them afraid to not respond to the cell phone call, email, IM, text, etc because of what he/she might do.
Other types of problems the survey asked about included using technology to spread rumors about the respondent; using information posted on a networking site against him/her; sharing private or embarrassing pictures or videos; using technology to ask to have sex or engage in sexual acts when he/she didn’t want to; and using technology to threaten to hurt her/him physically.
Technology not covered in the survey but which needs to be considered include using Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to track a person and using “spyware,” which is software secretly installed on victims’ computers, to monitor the user’s behavior on the internet, collect personal information, and intercept electronic communications.
While this data is compelling it needs to be substantiated with additional research, ideally with a broader sample of youth. Unfortunately, when I searched through several research databases (including SocAbs and PsycInfo) earlier this week I came up empty handed. I think it is fair to say, though, that the use of technology in committing acts of dating violence and aggression is a growing cause for concern.
As noted by Break the Cycle in a recent issue brief, this use of technology to commit acts of dating violence is problematic, because the use of cell phones and the internet is so private that these forms of abuse are often hidden. At the same time, Break the Cycle cautions that technology is not the enemy, it is merely the tool being used by abusers. They warn that restricting access to technology will not stop the problem. Instead they suggest that teens need to be taught how to use technology safely and productively.
Next week, Mitru Ciarlante from the National Center for Victims of Crime will do a follow up post that will provide practical strategies for responding to the use of technology in adolescent dating violence.