Digital Reduction

Pulling the plug on technology might seem like a simplistic solution to teen digital dating abuse, but that would not solve the underlying issue. Both Baldwin and Zweig say having parents involved and aware of the how technology can be a tool in an abuser’s hands is key to helping teens avoid and report digital dating abuse.

“The one thing that we thought was really important for this is to increase public awareness for parents in particular, that they know that this kind of abuse is happening, that their child might be experiencing digital abuse,” said Zweig.

She stressed that digital abuse is a huge red flag to parents that something else might be going on in the relationship, in particular physical violence or sexual violence. “Parents need to open a dialogue with their youth about digital dating abuse, to really understand the nature of that relationship so that the child can get help if needed.”

Zweig expressed her concern that some teens are starting to accept that such digital harassment is part of life. “We—parents, teachers and society—need to teach them that harassment is not the purpose of technology, so that if something happens, they are aware that it’s wrong and can seek assistance,” she said.

Another key to training is for parents to teach their children what honoring the opposite sex means. “When our kids see how I treat my spouse, they’re going to know what’s healthy in a relationship,” said Baldwin. “It’s our job as parents to make our home emotionally and physically safe for our children and to model what are appropriate and inappropriate ways to treat the opposite sex.”

“What this type of study says to me is that teens don’t understand the importance of healthy relationships,” said Baldwin. “It starts with Mom and Dad and what kind of relationship they have.”

He pointed to Proverbs 4:23 as a good verse to share with teens: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (NIV). Parents can use the verse as a springboard to talk to their teen about why it’s important to guard their hearts and how unhealthy behaviors can lead to any abuse, including digital dating abuse.

Sarah Hamaker is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ through the Rosemond Leadership Parenting Coach Institute. She’s also a freelance writer and editor. Sarah lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children. Visit her at www.parentcoachnova.com.

Publication date: March 26, 2013