Textual Harassment and Digital Abuse: Cell Phones, Facebook, and Twitter Oh My
I’ve had the new iphone for about 24 hours now and it’s incredible (and exhausting) how connected you are to everyone and everything from such a tiny device. This realization took on a whole new meaning when I remembered an article I read last week in the Washington Post about a new trend in dating violence that would be impossible without my savvy little phone – “textual harassment.”
In abusive relationships texting is a new way abusers choose to threaten, stalk, and harass their partners. With various unlimited phone plans this type of abuse can be relentless – sometimes 100 or more texts a day for some according to the Post. Coupled with phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, tweets, etc. dating violence has taken on a whole new dimension in the digital age.
Despite new digital harassing avenues, physical abuse in relationships remains. In fact, a federal survey last month revealed that one of 10 high school students nationally reported being hit, slapped, or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend during the previous year. Imagine how great that number would be if you were to factor in “textual harassment” and other forms of online abuse.
Another survey by the Associated Press and MTV revealed some other disturbing trends in what they coin “digital abuse:”
- Almost a quarter of young people currently in some sort of romantic relationship report that their boyfriend or girlfriend checks up with them multiple times per day, either online or on a cell phone, to see where they are, who they’re with or what they’re doing.
- More than 1 in 4 say their boyfriend or girlfriend has checked the text messages on their phone without permission.
- More than 1 in 10 have had a boyfriend or girlfriend demand passwords.
- Roughly 1 in 10 have also had a significant other demand that they “unfriend” former boyfriends/girlfriends on social networks.
With so many choices – text, call, slap, punch, facebook, tweet – dating violence has transformed greatly especially when I think about what students experienced when I was in high school.
There was a time not so long ago when teenagers didn’t have cell phones (it’s more difficult to harass someone via beeper, remember those?) and had to call their boyfriend or girlfriend’s homes to speak to them. That often meant speaking to their parents first which meant the parents could monitor phone calls.
There was also a time not too long ago when Facebook, twitter, and other social networks didn’t exist at all (imagine that). These new social networks now provide yet another platform for harassment, bullying, and abuse.
MTV has created a new campaign – A Thin Line – to raise awareness of “digital abuse” like forced sexting, textual harassment, and cyber-bullying. The campaign was developed to educate students to identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse. In an age of ever expanding technology and increasing social networks we will need more programs likes this to educate youth. Who knows what other social networks – and accompanying abuse – we’ll have next year or even next month.
Photo by Cyrillicus used under a Creative Commons license