Dating and Digital Abuse: Keeping Your Teen Safe Online
Feb 22, 2018
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Did you know that nearly 1.5 million high school students in the U.S. experience physical abuse from a partner in a single year?
Aside from physical abuse, our youth are also experiencing digital dating abuse. This is the use of technology to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a current or former partner. These behaviors can include unwanted or excessive texting, harassment through social media and pressure to send or receive unwanted sexual photos or messages.
One in four teens is harassed or abused through technology.
Teens and young adults (ages 16-24) use ever-changing technology to communicate. Here are some of the latest trending apps:
Houseparty is a video group chat app with over one million users. Users can invite multiple friends to video chat and use text and emojis at the same time. After creating a unique username, users can add a phone number and give the app access to already-existing contacts. After the account is set up, users create “rooms” for separate video chats. Rooms allow users to add up to eight friends to the video chat.
Monkey is an app common among middle school and high school-aged students. Monkey is for ages 12 and up, and connects to an already-existing Snapchat account. It allows users to chat randomly with other users all over the world, without having each other’s phone number. When a user is matched with a new person, the user can choose to add more time to the chat, or add the new person on Snapchat to continue the connection.
tbh is short for “to be honest.” The app lets users anonymously answer kind-hearted, multiple-choice questions about friends. This is done in the form of a poll.
After signing in with a first and last name, users select their school, gender and grade. Then they can answer questions like “Who has the best smile?” or “Who is always nice to talk to?” Users are given the names of four friends and classmates and must click only one. The selected poll “winner” will receive an anonymous notification. tbh only allows users to say positive things about other users. The tbh team generates some questions, while others are submitted by current users.
Similar to tbh, Friendo is a free app where users answer multiple-choice questions about their friends. Except in this case, the app is not anonymous. There are a variety of categories within FriendO, including favorite foods, sports and music. There are even “not safe for work” (NSFW) categories, which users can unlock by inviting three friends to join the app. Users ultimately compete to answer the most correct questions about their friends, and then they are ranked on a scoreboard.
Sarahah allows users to send anonymous feedback from friends. If your teen is using this app, they might have given their Sarahah username to anywhere from 20 to 100 people, or more. Your teen receives a variety of messages from these people, never knowing who is sending it. Unfortunately, it is often used as a vessel for bullying or gossiping. It is similar to YikYak, which was a previously popular app for teens.
Yubo (formerly known as Yellow)
Yubo allows Snapchat users to connect with other Snapchat users by swiping right or left, similar to Tinder (a dating app). To create a Yubo profile, users must enter their Snapchat username, first name, gender and date of birth. Then they choose if they want to connect with boys, girls or both. The app encourages users to describe themselves using emojis, and finally upload a profile picture and up to five additional pictures. Yubo is often described as “Tinder for teens” because it uses technology to find other users nearby, meaning that users must enable their location on their device.
While most teens can be trusted and are capable of interacting with friends using apps, parents should be aware that popular apps may seem harmless, but can be used inappropriately and ultimately could lead to major, and dangerous, consequences.
If you need an interactive way to start a conversation about healthy relationships with a teen, visit the loveisrespect healthy relationship polls. Each day in February, a new poll question is posted. Ask your teen to read the question and submit their answer, and then talk about why they chose that answer.
Follow loveisrespect on social media for information and updates to share with friends and family. When sharing posts to spread awareness, use hashtags #HandsUnite #DoYourPart #loveisrespect #teenDVmonth and #orange4love.
Parents, check out this free downloadable teen dating abuse brochure from The Center for Family Safety and Healing. The Center for Family Safety and Healing provides free training sessions to teens, college students, parents and teachers about digital safety. Please complete the online training request form if you are interested in learning more.
Lynn Rosenthal is the president of The Center for Family Safety and Healing (TCFSH), which takes an integrated team approach to breaking the cycle of family violence and child abuse.
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