Teens' experiences with dating can be new and exciting, and can teach them more about themselves while also laying the foundation for future relationships. Today, many teens connect with, or even meet, their partners online. Technology is a powerful tool teens can use in many positive ways. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. Unfortunately, for many teenagers, dating can also involve - physical, emotional, and sexual violence including technology abuse. This abuse can have an adverse effect on their physical and mental health both immediately and over time, as well as negatively influence their ability to form healthy relationships.
Abusive partners can misuse technology as a tactic to maintain power and control through the use of social media, location tracking, texting, and other tools. In a 2013 study, “nearly half of all young people ages 14-24 reported being electronically harassed in some form and 40% of teens reported incidences of digital dating abuse.” 
Learn more about Teens and Technology: Examples of Technology Abuse
Parents, caring adults, and community members play a crucial role in the lives of young people because they are in position to recognize the signs of teen dating violence and technology misuse.
Tips to support teens impacted by dating abuse:
1. Listen. You do not need to know the details of every type of tech teens are using to recognize patterns of abuse, stalking, and harassment.
2. Ask basic questions to help identify the risk of the technology. What is popular one day may be outdated the next. Technology use among teens can also vary between geographic locations and demographics. Downloading an app or researching a platform teens are telling you about can help you understand the options for safety, security, and privacy. Many apps and online spaces have similar processes, community standards, and terms of service. You can also watch a video about how the app or online space functions or have the teens provide you with a tutorial. Engage them as experts.
3. When youth impacted by tech abuse are seeking support, ask:
a. What is happening?
b. Where/when is it happening? (a specific time, location, platform)
c. What does the person seem to know (what is the context)?
d. What does the teen want to see happen? Sometimes it’s escalation of abuse, sometimes it’s reputation management (help them explore options that could keep them safe)
e. How have they been keeping themselves safe?
f. Is there anyone else aware that this is happening?
g. What would they like to happen and how can you help? (It’s important not to assume what they want.)
Although technology can be misused as a tactic in teen dating abuse, technology can also be used strategically. Empowering teens to take control over their tech use will better help them understand how it can be used as a tool to support them, and they can create safe spaces free from abuse. Teens often have a lot more insight and skills to navigate technology, online spaces, and abusive people, than they are given credit for. Let them inform you on what they believe they need.
To learn more about technology safety, please visit our website techsafety.org.