June 30th, 2009

Relationship Abuse: That's Not Cool

The subtler gradations of relationship abuse–emotional manipulation and control–have always been somewhat difficult to pinpoint, and thus harder to prevent.

Dating Violence/ HarassmentSocial networking and texting add a new layer of potential abuse, and this kind of technological harassment is on the rise among high school students. By texting their significant others constantly, teens develop destructive and abusive dialogues.  And because they’re often in the midst of their first serious relationships, the victims of this kind of communication overload can rarely recognize it for what it is–abuse.

Interestingly, most recent efforts to combat teen dating abuse seem to involve some kind of technological communication; for example, sites like That’s Not Cool encourage teenagers to send e-cards (provided by the site) to their significant others, saying things like, “Your frequent calls have greatly increased my ability to ignore things,” and “You must be proud to have nothing better to do than IM me all day.”

At Loveisrespect.org, teens can create “mashups”–short movies using software on the site–that send positive messages about dating. In Massachusetts’ Middlesex County, teens submitted short PSAs to a video contest concerned with teen dating violence, the results of which can be viewed here.

Though it’s frustrating that cell phones and the internet have allowed emotional abuse among teens to blossom, it’s encouraging to see teens and adults combat the problem with the tools of its trade.

That’s Not Cool [website]

Love is Respect [website]

Teen Dating Abuse Made Worse By Technology [ABC News]

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