Teen Dating Violence: digital abuse and sexting

This month, teens and communities are working together to shed light on the different forms that teen dating abuse can take. Check out the video below to see what teens are saying about teen dating violence and what it looks like to them.

One article notes  that at least 10 percent  of teens have been involved in a violent dating situation and the rising use of technology among teens as young as 12 may be contributing to these numbers.

PEW research found:

  • Almost 60 percent of 12 year olds now have cell phones
  • As of 2009, 83 percent of 17 year olds have cell phones – up from 64 percent in 2004
  • 50 is the median number of texts that are sent daily by 12-17 year olds

Use of this of technology has also led to a rise in the occurrence of ‘sexting.’

What is sexting? 

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How common is it?

PEW found that among surveyed teens aged 12-17:

  • 15 percent have received or sent suggestive images of themselves or someone else via text.
  • Older teens are more likely to participate in explicit image texting.
  • Teens with unlimited text messaging plans – 75 percent of teens with cell phones — are more likely to report receiving sexually suggestive texts.
  • 18 percent of teens with unlimited texting plans are more often receiving nude or nearly nude images or video via their phones.

Why is it problematic?

Sexting I is extremely common among teens and contributes to negative risky sexual behaviour, exposure to violence and coercion in young relationships. In January, a young girl fell victim to the dangers of sexting and was bullied into performing sexual acts after a party. A clip of her was taken and she was threatened with it being shared at school. Additionally, teens participating in sending explicit images are also at risk of legal action under child pornography rules. An example of this activity happened in Pennsylvania last month when two teens were cited for sending explicit photos of themselves.

What is an appropriate response?

Continuing to raise awareness about the dangers associated with digital abuse and sexting is the first step to combating the problem. Professionals, non-profits and communities are working on the response and HealthyChildren.org shares some ideas for how to respond, including:

  • Talk to kids about healthy dating relationships and the issue of sexting.
  • Make sure they understand the legal consequences of participating in sending explicit messages and images.
  • Share real stories about what can happen when sending or receiving images.
  • Practice appropriate responses with kids so they can use them if they’re pressured into sexting.

For more information on understanding how to respond, check out Futures Without Violence’s guide to Effective Responses to Teen Sexting.

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