Teens are living out romantic relationships online – flirting, fighting, breaking up, and making up. Online talk can be a healthy and even powerful way for some teens to get closer to others, but what happens when relationships get rocky? Couples might trade public insults through texts, Facebook status updates, and other social media posts. This situation may even worsen when couples break up, especially if the breakup is nasty or done with an impersonal text or email.
Some teenage relationships can become manipulative and controlling, especially when teens use digital devices at their disposal to act out. A few texts a day can turn into a few hundred. Relentless and unreasonable demands escalate. The abuser presses for things like the other person's passwords (so they can check up on them) and sexy photos, and forces their significant other to unfriend people they don't like.
Parents and educators can support and protect teens against such digital drama and abuse by providing guidance on how to establish appropriate boundaries for relationships and by encouraging them to take steps to protect their digital domain while they are in a relationship.Defending Your Digital Domain
- Keep your personal information private and your passwords on lockdown.
- Trust your instincts. If you don't like or feel threatened by something in a text, IM, or anywhere online, tell an adult and report threats to site administrators. Click here for a full list of social media site administrators.
- Don’t settle and accept relationships or friendships that don't give you any breathing room. If your inboxes are overflowing with unwanted messages, take control. Delete, de-friend, and defend your domain.
- Be a wingman. If one of your friends is dealing with harassment from a classmate, stranger, or crush, show your friend that you are someone to depend on.
- Be part of the solution. No matter how large or small, every action you take to increase awareness of this issue is an important step.
Check out the resources on this page from Common Sense Media, the “That’s Not Cool” campaign, and MTV’s “A Thin Line” campaign to help prevent digital harassment. The best defense is to know what to do if it happens to you, your friend, your child, or one of your students.