Texting Technology Puts Teens At Greater Risk of Abusive Relationships
Technology may have taken domestic abuse to a new level. A recent poll from the national Family Violence Prevention Fund finds alarming numbers on teen dating, and a new form of abuse using text messages. Charles Fishburne talks with the Director of the Virginia Family and Childrens Trust Fund.
The poll says almost half of America’s teenagers have been in a relationship in which they felt controlled, threatened and pressured to do things they did not want to do.
Inge: Well, you don't pick up the paper unless you see some kind of a real tragedy around relationships that have gone bad.
Fran Inge says technology has added an entirely new dimension to various forms of abuse.
Inge: Oh, yes, you know, it's not, according to one study, the technology and teen dating abuse survey, one in three teens say that they are text-messaged ten, twenty, even thirty times per hour by a partner inquiring where they are and with whom; and you know, now with GPS sightings as well, that also they can actually find someone that they're trying to stalk.
The irony is, many teenagers don’t realize what a trap they may be walking into.
Inge: When teenagers see that someone is paying attention to them and is having a lot of contact with them, it's very exciting, but most teenagers are not really equipped to handle these kinds of serious relationships, nor are they really prepared to properly respond when a relationship turns abusive. So when they have someone who is texting them many, many times an hour or bullying or they're just being cruel, internet activity is occurring, they usually don't tell their parents, they don't know how to make it stop and often, they even participate in it, which makes the whole situation much worse.
She says Virginia is so far unprepared to identify, report or deal with this kind of abuse.
Inge: What we've found was that there wasn't a lot of data regarding teen dating violence, and so one of the things that we're hoping through this awareness of this issue, is that there will be more data collected. While we have some national data, we basically have no information in Virginia. We need the community to be involved in this and so therefore we are really looking for policy makers and state and local government officials to examine the issue and investigate if and how data on youth dating violence is collected. And, you know, we really believe that you must have the proper information in order to address this and correct it.
So you're looking for a change in public policy?
Inge: We really are. We really are. Because we really, it doesn't take many conversations with children to really understand that there is an issue with this.
Meantime, parents need to get involved.
Inge: Find out how much time they're really spending on a lot of these social media sites and also would suggest going in to some of their sites and actually using the site, too. See if your child will friend you on Facebook, for example, talk with other parents who have children the same age as theirs and find out how far along that they are doing, especially for middle-schoolers or upper elementary school, find out how much their children are participating in social media.
Are we crying wolf here? Is there any indication that it's really done anybody any damage yet?
Inge: Yes. I think if you actually even look on some websites, you will find that there are already groups that are forming and usually the sad part is, many of these groups are forming as a result of a homicide that's occurred when texting has gone bad and has gone too far.
There is something positive that can come of this.
Inge: Two things. I think awareness and for parents to really become proactive in monitoring and really watching the technology that their children are using. And the other part of that is potential policy changes that could be made and gathering better data; you know, you don't really change and improve what you can't measure and I feel like if we as a commonwealth could really measure to see the extent of what texting is doing with our children and social media is doing with our children in regard to abusive relationships, I feel like that we would create a better commonwealth to live in and to raise our children in.
Fran Inge is Director of the Virginia Family and Children's Trust Fund.
Charles Fishburne, WCVE News