Teenage Dating and Digital Harassment: What Parents Need to Know

Is your teenager dating? If so, you need to be aware that today’s budding romances are very different from the ones many of us experienced growing up. Not only are teenagers connected to each other 24/7 in today’s digital age, but technology has made arguments and break-ups not just emotionally hurtful, but potentially dangerous as well. Here’s what you need to know about dating in a digital world.

### What Is Digital Harassment?

Unlike cyberbullying, digital harassment usually takes place between two people who know each other intimately, like best friends or more typically, boyfriends or girlfriends. Digital harassment can take many different forms, but in essence, it’s an attempt to coerce, manipulate, or seek revenge on someone using digital devices. The following are examples of digital harassment:

Frequent text messagingEliciting passwords so that the boyfriend or girlfriend can see what their partner is doing onlineHacking social media networks and posting unwelcome messages on their partner’s behalfRequesting inappropriate images or “sexting” for “proof” of love

### The Dangers of Digital Harassment

Digital harassment isn’t just disturbing in the moment; it can have potentially lifelong effects. Imagine a naïve girl who “sexts” her boyfriend an immodest picture of herself, which he then shares with all of his friends, or worse on his social media profile. Before the girl is even aware of it, she’s gained a reputation at school. This can lead to cyberbullying, depression, and oh so much worse. Not convinced? Just read the heartbreaking story of teen suicide victim, Amanda Todd. Unfortunately, this is just one of many similar tragedies. To make matters worse, an Urban Institute study reported by Mashable revealed that victims of digital harassment were twice as likely to be physically abused as well.

### What Parents Can Do To Prevent Digital Harassment

Although the best thing parents can do to prevent this type of harassment is to have an open dialogue with their teens, we all know that adolescents are notorious for keeping their relationships to themselves. Using a parental app to track what your teen is doing on her computer and/or Smartphone is a good way of keeping your finger on the pulse of your child’s online activity and making sure that she’s not being endangered—by her boyfriend or anyone else.

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