Cyberbullying Fact Sheet: Electronic Dating Violence
By Sameer Hinduja and Justin W. Patchin
Electronic dating violence is “emotional or psychological harm in a romantic relationship perpetrated through the use of computers, cell phones, or other electronic devices.” Research has also shown that teenagers are at a higher risk than adults when it comes to abuse by intimates. Since the vast, vast majority of teens have embraced the use of computers and cell phones, we believe it is important to consider how this might be occurring via such devices. We explore this through research and discuss implications for youth and the adults that care for them in this fact sheet.
Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. (2011). Cyberbullying fact sheet:
Electronic Dating Violence. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved [insert date], from http://www.cyberbullying.us/electronic_dating_violence_fact_sheet.pdf
More Research on Electronic Dating Violence as Cyberbullying
As we’ve pointed out in our blog discussing the fundamentals of electronic dating violence among adolescents, and in our 2010 teen dating violence statistics released last week, we seem to be dealing with a significant social problem here. I wanted to share with you about the other research that has been done on this topic in previous year – which should help illustrate the problem. First, an online survey of teens sponsored by the Liz Claiborne company revealed that 36% of teens say their boyfriend or girlfriend checked up on them as many as 30 times per day and 17% reported that their significant other made them afraid not to respond to cell phone calls, email, or text messages. Another recent poll spearheaded by MTV and the Associated Press found that 22% of youth between the ages of 14 and 24 who were involved in a romantic relationship said that their partner wrote something about them online or in a text message that wasn’t true. This same survey reported that 22% of youth felt that their significant other checked up on them too often online or via cell phone.
The results of these studies, and the numbers from our data collected in the Spring of this year, illustrate that electronic dating violence is occurring across a meaningful proportion of youth. A lot of additional research is necessary to better parse out what leads to this problem, and how teenagers typically deal with it. I personally wish I could somehow reach every teenager who is romantically linked, and powerfully convey what constitutes a healthy and well-balanced relationship, and what depicts a dysfunctional, abusive one. What youth silently and reluctantly accept now in their teenage relationships, they may very well believe is normative in their adult relationships. And that would be such a travesty.
Electronic Dating Violence and Teens – our 2010 research findings
We have recently shared that electronic dating violence among teenagers is one of the facets of adolescent technology misuse we are exploring. Please see the previous referenced blog for foundational information. Today, I wanted to share with you our research results from our 2010 data. This is based on a random sample of approximately 4,400 11-18 year-old youth from a large school district in the southern United States. The demographic characteristics of the sample were statistically representative of the entire population of middle school and high school students in this district. If you would like further information about methodology, please let me know.
• 10% of youth said a romantic partner has prevented them from using a computer or cell phone.
• 6% of boys and girls say their romantic partner posted something publicly online to make fun of, threaten, or embarrass them.
• 10.4% of boys and 9.8% of girls said they received a threatening cell phone message from their romantic partner.
• 5.4% of boys and 3.4% of girls said their romantic partner uploaded or shared a humiliating of harassing picture of them online or through their cell phone
• 7% of youth admitted that they prevented their romantic partner from using a computer or cell phone.
• 6% of boys and 4% of girls say they posted something publicly online to make fun of, threaten, or embarrass their romantic partner.
• About 7% of youth said they sent a threatening cell phone message to their romantic partner.
• 5% of boys and 3% of girls said they uploaded or shared a humiliating of harassing picture of their romantic partner online or through their cell phone
• Victims of traditional (offline) dating violence are significantly more likely to be victims of electronic forms of dating violence (r=.75) than those who have not experienced offline bullying
• Those who admit to engaging in traditional dating violence also report engaging in electronic forms of dating violence (r=.77)
• Victims of dating violence (r=.51) and specifically electronic forms of dating violence (r=.64) are significantly more likely to also be victims of cyberbullying
• Youth who are cyberbullied are 3.6 times as likely to experience electronic teen dating violence
• Youth who admit to engaging in dating violence (r=.52) and specifically electronic forms of dating violence (r=.65) also admit to engaging in cyberbullying
• Youth who share their passwords with their significant other are nearly three times as likely to be victims of electronic dating violence
• Older students reported more experience with dating violence
We will share more about these findings and their implications in the immediate future.
IBPA 2010 Conference – Bullying Prevention in the Age of the Internet
The 7th Annual Conference of the International Bullying Prevention Association in Seattle, Washington is coming up quick, and we really hope you’re coming (register here). We will be participating in a pre-conference on Monday, November 15th, and will be giving a presentation entitled “The Online Experience of Adolescent Girls: Cyberbullying, Sexting, and Relationship Abuse” on the morning of Tuesday, November 16th. Justin and I really look forward to meeting you if we haven’t already, catching up with you if we have, hanging out, and brainstorming about new initiatives and collaborations. Many people are doing awesome, pioneering work in the fields of bullying and cyberbullying, and we are honored to be able to rub elbows with them. If you have any questions about the conference or our roles in it, or if you want to get together to chat while we are there – please let us know.
Cyberbullying and Electronic Dating Violence
Our cyberbullying work continues to take our research agenda in new and interesting directions. One phenomenon which we have been exploring in recent months is “electronic dating violence,” which we define as: “emotional or psychological harm in a romantic relationship perpetrated through the use of computers, cell phones, or other electronic devices.” The number of persons who have been victimized offline by romantic partners range from 10% to 47%, depending on how it is defined and measured in research studies. Research has also shown that teenagers are at a higher risk than adults when it comes to abuse by intimates. Since the vast, vast majority of teens have embraced the use of computers and cell phones, we believe it is important to consider how dating violence might be occurring via such devices.
There are some similarities between cyberbullying and electronic dating violence that should be mentioned. First, both naturally employ technology. Second, cyberbullying is largely perpetrated by and among known peers, as is aggression in romantic relationships (where youth typically select dating partners among their peer group). Third, both lead to specific negative emotional, psychological, physical, and behavioral outcomes. Finally, both also may have similar contributing factors such as personal insecurities and a need to demonstrate control. With regard to differences, cyberbullying tends to occur between individuals who do not like, and do not want to be around, each other. Electronic dating violence transpires between two people who are attracted to each other on some level.
There are many ways in which teens can use Internet-enabled devices to cause harm to a dating partner. Some may be excessively bold, sarcastic, and malicious to their significant other when communicating with them online for the same reasons that cyberbullies do. In addition, privacy violations can occur as perpetrators check up on, monitor, and even stalk their partners if they can easily access the latter’s computer or cell phone. They may also use textual, audio, picture, or video content stored on their electronic devices to blackmail, extort, or otherwise manipulate their partner into saying or doing something against their will.
To be sure, this content can be shared with a very large audience – a classroom of students, the entire student body, a neighborhood, the town, the entire world – with ease and speed either through the forwarding of a text or multimedia message, or through its uploading to Facebook or YouTube. Its “viral” nature, then, can greatly intensify the amount of victimization a partner suffers, knowing that the embarrassing or harmful content is being viewed and shared – perhaps repeatedly – by an incredible amount of people. The situation can become worse after realizing that it is sometimes difficult to work with Internet Service Providers and Content Service Providers to get the content removed in a timely manner.
It is interesting to note that motivations for teenage dating violence include anger and a felt need to demonstrate power. An adolescent can quickly send a scathing or harassing email or instant message to a girlfriend or boyfriend solely based on negative emotions, without taking the time to calm down and react rationally to a feeling or situation and without considering the implications of that textual content. Power can be readily exerted in a dating scenario because the victim’s past and present experiences with the abuser provide a unique relational dependency and history that make it difficult to resist or get away from online mistreatment or harm. This is much less true in adolescent relationships than in adult relationships (where there is sometimes a need for financial assistance and sometimes the presence of children), but there still often exists a power dynamic that may be exploited if the relationship is unbalanced and dysfunctional. Indeed, more suffering and pain may result from cyberbullying within a romantic relationship, as compared to cyberbullying among strangers, casual acquaintances, or even platonic friends. Finally, these technological devices allow abusers to feel constantly connected to (and within “reach” of) their dating partner, who often feels that he or she has no escape from the torment. This is enhanced by the fact that youth constantly have their phone with them day and night, and use it as their lifeline to maintain and grow relationships.
Clearly, the nuances of electronic dating violence merit our attention, inquiry, and response. Are you working with teens who are dealing with this problem? How have you tried to help them? What has worked best? We look forward to further discussing this in the weeks ahead.
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