WARSAW — As February, which is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, comes to an end, The Beaman Home wants to raise awareness related to a common but less visible form of teen dating violence: social, or digital, media abuse.
According to a 2013 report from Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, more than a quarter (26 percent) of youth in a relationship and nearly a fifth (18 percent) of all youth said they experienced some form of cyber dating abuse victimization in the prior year. Given these statistics, awareness of social media abuse becomes more important every day.
Kacey Anderson, Early Education Specialist at The Beaman Home, said sexting and cyberbullying remain the most common forms of social media abuse. She said the best way to aid in ending social media abuse is “by not engaging in any way and reporting the abuse to the proper authorities, such as parents, teachers, principals, counselors or police.”
People of any age should learn to identify signs of social media abuse. Anderson gave some examples of signs parents notice in teens.
“Spending much more or much less time online, texting, gaming or using social media; being withdrawn, upset or outraged after using the internet or texting; being secretive about who they are talking to and what they are doing online or on their phone and having multiple new phone numbers, texts or e-mail addresses on their phone, computer or tablet.”
Anderson said teens tend to notice the following warning signs in themselves or in other teens: “being withdrawn, aggressive, anxious, clingy or depressed; suddenly behaving differently; experiencing problems sleeping, developing eating disorders; wetting the bed; taking extreme risks; missing school; using drugs or alcohol; self-harming and having thoughts of suicide.”
Both teens and parents have the responsibility of watching out for social media abuse.
“If a teen believes a friend is being abused through social media, the teen should not engage in the social media posts in any capacity,” said Anderson. “They should report the abuse to the proper authorities and should open communication with his or her friend by supportively expressing their concerns about what they have been noticing on social media.”
“Parents should be fully aware of what their teens are doing on social media and should monitor their teen’s computer, phone and email usage. This is difficult for teens; however, parents should create an open and honest dialogue with their teens to help them understand their concerns and worries.”
Anderson also suggests that parents use parental locks on each operating system to help protect their teens.
Social media abuse “can create long-lasting damage for the victims that can last into adulthood. The victims may experience depression, school failure, anxiety, other mental health problems, higher risk for drug/substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and suicide,” said Anderson.
Abusers are not immune to social media abuse’s effects, according to Anderson.
“Abusers may find their behavior confusing or incomprehensible and experience personal suffering as a result of their choices,” said Anderson. “Further traumatic effects include higher risk for suicide, life-time risk for alcohol or substance abuse, high-levels of anxiety, fear of incarceration, and dependency issues.”
If you want more information regarding social media abuse or need help with a situation of abuse, reach out to any of the following resources: The Beaman Home at 1 (877) 725-9363, Teen Dating Abuse Hotline at 1 (866) 331-9474, Trever Lifeline (for LGBTQ Youth) at 1 (866) 488-7386, breakthecycle.org, icadvinc.org, or loveisrespect.org.