By Ariella Israel, JCADA Spring 2012 Intern
How many times have you bumped into someone because either you or they are texting? Sound familiar?
If you, too, are an avid texter, you aren’t alone. Texting as a medium of communication has grown exponentially with 200,000 text messages being sent every second. It seems that these days everyone walks around, eyes glued to their iPhones, Androids, and Blackberrys. The power of connecting to friends is literally at your fingertips. Through different types of social media, such as Facebook, as well as texting, we have the opportunity to stay in constant contact through cell phones.
Technology has changed the way in which we connect to our friends and family, but for tweens and teens, technology has changed the face of dating. In an effort to prevent ‘awkward moments’, most tweens and teens ‘date’ via different chatting mediums. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal delved into this tween dating world, exploring the ins-and-outs of these young relationships. One of the many tweens that were interviewed was a young girl named Claire. She “and her crush communicated almost entirely via text message and Facebook…They even broke up via text message.” Entire relationships pan out over the phone; kids fire hundreds of text messages back and forth a day. The “relationships are fleeting but all-consuming.”
For tweens and teens, new relationships are exciting, and talking via text enables one to feel a sense of privacy with their boyfriend or girlfriend. This seemingly secure and secretive environment that a phone relationship creates, also makes it easy for abusive relationships to intensify. Abuse via text message has become a growing problem over the last number of years. A survey conducted by the Associated Press/MTV “found that half of the respondents between the ages of 14 and 24 have experienced digital abuse, including texting abuse.”
This abuse has become so prevalent, that “One in three teens reported receiving 10 to 30 text messages an hour from a partner keeping tabs on them, according to a 2007 study, and one in four reported their partners called them names or harassed them through text messages and cell phones.” Due to this rampant digital abuse, the phrase ‘textual harassment’ has been coined to validate the severity of the problem.
But what exactly qualifies textual abuse? The enduring issue with texting is that it may be hard to discern what’s healthy and what isn’t. Maybe the person meant the comment as a joke? Or was it a sarcastic comment? Maybe you’re just reading into the message too much? It becomes hard to read people’s intended message without physically hearing the message and seeing facial expressions.
In any type of relationship, there is an entire spectrum of relationship health and defining abuse is often a gray area. Yet it is always important to remember to TRUST YOUR GUT! If something seems off in a relationship, chances are, your intuition is correct. Relationships should make you feel happy, not anxious or upset.
What are the Warning Signs of Digital Abuse?
- Receiving hundreds of texts a day, causing one to feel monitored and controlled.
- Receiving unwanted explicit photos and/or feeling pressured to send inappropriate photos of oneself over the phone
- Receiving negative or insulting messages, which included but are not limited to name-calling, threats, and any message that lowers self-esteem
- Feeling that you cannot put down your phone in fear that if you don’t answer the message you will be punished.
- Being forced to give your passwords to your boyfriend or girlfriend
Here are some tips on how to help a friend:
- Listen and believe what they tell you.
- Acknowledge your friend’s feelings. Don’t tell them how they should feel.
- Let them know if you are concerned for their safety.
- Do not judge or make victim-blaming statements like “you’re stupid to stay with him” or “Why do you let her treat you like this?”
- Do not pressure your friend to break up with their partner and don’t put their partner down. This may drive your friend away from you when they need you the most.
- Encourage your friend to make their own decisions and support them through this difficult process.
- Offer to help them find a counselor, teacher, or parent they can trust. Offer to go with them to speak with these people.
JCADA/AWARE Confidential Helpline: 301-315-8041/1-877-88-JCADA (52232)
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474 (24 hr)