Tech-enabled dating abuse

By Anne Collier

If your kid’s like mine (and has a cellphone), s/he is getting text messages all the time. What you might want to check on with him or her is whether it’s all the time from one person. If it is, there could be some good reasons for this seemingly obsessive or stalking behavior – maybe the child needs help, a confidant for a few days. Another possibility is what blogger April Peveteaux at cafemom calls “the new dating violence.” Bottom line: It’s when someone uses today’s tech (texting, tweeting, Skyping, chatting, status updating, etc.) to control another person in the guise of love. “Constant checking in [via text messaging], insults, and isolation [suddenly not checking in via text messaging] are all techniques abusers use to gain control over the abused,” Peveteaux writes. What bothers her more is how available they are – for whatever, including abuse – via their cellphones, handhelds, and computers. A New York Times blog post on the subject cited a 2005 survey that found about a quarter of teens know at least one student who has experienced dating abuse, and less than a quarter of teens have discussed the subject with their parents. If not, I hope they go to, the national teen dating abuse hotline (866-331-9474).

In “7 Facts About Teen Dating Abuse: Smothering and Obsessive Youth,” Vanessa Van Petten at points to a reason why some kids (people, really) behave so obsessively: “The cotton candy friend epidemic is a huge issue because teens are not feeling as connected or intimate with their friends because all of their interaction is so superficial. This can make young people, who are starving for closeness, crave a smothering or obsessive relationship more than previous generations.” To that, my son said, “It depends on the person.” He can see that it’s possible all the relating is cotton-candy-lightweight for some people, but he doesn’t know anybody like that. His communication with friends is a blend – certainly part cotton candy, but with plenty of solid, satisfying face-to-face relating. I think (and hope) that’s true for most kids. [Thanks to Amy Jussel at for pointing out Peveteaux’s post.]

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