February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM)

A teenager’s first crush or relationship can bring a lot of new emotions. It can also bring new experiences. Some of these relationships can turn harmful or abusive. These experiences can change how teens view themselves. It can also shape how they choose their next romantic partner.  Technology is another part of young relationships. Everyone deserves to feel safe in person and online. So, it is important to know how to talk with young people about healthy relationships.

What is teen dating abuse?

Approximately 1 in 3 teens experience dating abuse. Abuse can include physical, verbal, sexual, or emotional harm. This can be either in-person or online.

Most teens have a smartphone or access to a smartphone. This technology helps teens connect. This can be with friends. It can be with romantic partners. Or it can be for information gathering. Technology also allows teens to express themselves. And to find supportive communities.

In abusive relationships, a partner may use technology to gain power or control. For example, abusive partners might threaten to share fake or private pictures online.

Increasing online safety and privacy

There are so many social media sites. For those who are parenting or working with young people, this can feel overwhelming. Here is advice that will help you support young people who are in abusive relationships:

  1. Build a trusting connection: Listen without judgment. Take their situation seriously, and thank them for sharing.
  2. Ask open-ended questions to understand how technology is involved: What is happening? Where, when, and with who? What does the teen want to happen?
  3. Engage them in a conversation about their safety in a non-judgmental and supportive way: How do they feel about what’s happening? How have they been keeping themselves safe?
  4. Decide on the next steps together: This could involve safety planning around the relationship and creating technology boundaries.

The best way to stop teen dating violence is to prevent it from happening in the first place. What is most important to understand is that any form of dating violence or abuse involves patterns of power and control of one partner over another. Young people can learn what healthy relationships look and feel like through safe and communicative relationships with adults like you. For more information, visit the Safety Net Project to learn more about technology abuse in teen relationships. Helping teens develop healthy habits with technology can help increase their safety and confidence online.

Love shouldn’t hurt; here’s how you can get involved in TDVAM 2023

Always call 911 in an emergency. If you believe someone needs help, let them know they can call the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline at any time at 1-866-723-3014.

Learn more about the Office of Domestic Violence Strategies