Teen Dating Violence and Social Media

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Teen dating violence remains a widespread social problem in the United States with lasting impact on those who experience it. A national survey of in-school youth grades 9-12 found that 8% of those in dating relationships or who had gone out with someone had experienced physical and 7% had experienced sexual dating violence (Kahn, 2018).

An earlier study, which included other dimensions of dating abuse, found that 30% of 7th to 12th graders had experienced psychological dating abuse in the previous 18 months. (Halpern 2001). Adolescents who experience dating violence are more likely to x,y,z.

Scholars in recent years have begun to examine the intersection between the rise in electronic communications and adolescent dating violence (citations). Some argue that increased access to and use of personal electronic devices have changed the very dynamic of teen relationships (Subrhamanyam and Greenfield, 2008), making them more susceptible to a new forms of dating violence (King-Ryes). One study found that among 3,745 youth who were dating or in a relationship, 26% had experienced some form of cyber dating abuse (Zweig 2014).

Several scholars have looked to Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977) to explain dating violence (Shorey, 2008; Branley and Covey, 2017; Temple et all, 2016, Branley). Social Learning Theory posits that one's behavior, values, and attitudes emerge through observation and imitation and are reinforced (positively or negatively) through one's environment. Since it does not rely on actual experience, modeling behavior from mass media [or electronic communications] has the potential for much broader influence on behaviors (Bandura 2001). This review seeks to understand, within the context of social learning theory, how electronic media use influence youth attitudes and behaviors around dating violence in real world (i.e. non-internet) settings. With unprecedented rates of electronic media use among youth (Anderson) and the prevalence of psychological and emotional violence in this new, often public, medium, do youth internalize these behaviors, impacting dating violence overall?

Adolescent Electronic Media Use

Adolescents' access to and use of electronic media devices have grown markedly in the past decade (Lenhart, Anderson). Ninety-five % of youth ages 13-17 possess or can access a smart phone (Anderson 2018) compared with just 23% who reported smart phone ownership in 2011 (Lenhart 2012). Nearly half (45%) report being almost constantly online (Anderson, 2018). Electronic communications such as texting and social media sites dominate youth interactions compared to face-to-face or voice phone calls (need citation!) and can have several important consequences.

Teen's near constant availability on line has created a 'new normal' around personal boundaries, where it is common to know friends' whereabouts and activities. As far back as 2011, 18% of teens shared their locations with friends (Lenhart). Some have argued that this constant surveillance can erode personal boundaries, and make teens more vulnerable to harmful relationship patterns in the future (King-Ries). The erasure of personal boundaries may include sharing of passwords as an indication of trust among dating partners (Baker). In addition, social media has enabled larger social networks which may, to some extent, dehumanize social exchanges (Subra).

Adolescents are at a time in life where they are starting to experiment with courtship, and media exposure may leave an especially strong impression which they carry to their dating lives (Maganello). As teens more frequently access electronic media for communication (Lenhart 2012) or entertainment (Anderson, 2018) through their own mobile devices, there may be less opportunity for intervention and oversight by parents, who may not understand the complexities of this new form of communication (Subramanyam). Today's youth are the trail blazers for electronic communications and therefore may have no one other than their peers to model behavior (citation).

Electronic Media Use and Abuse in Teen Dating

Drauker et al. (2010) identify eight ways in which electronic communications are used in adolescent romantic relationships:

  1. starting a new liaison, getting to know someone met offline;
  2. regular communications between the dating partners;
  3. arguments (though these were generally done verbally);
  4. surveilling or controlling a partner's activities;
  5. psychological and verbal abuse;
  6. reaching out for assistance during a violent encounter;
  7. blocking partners attempts to communicate; and,
  8. dispute resolution/reunion.

This paper defines cyber dating abuse as 4) surveillance and, 5) psychological and verbal abuse.

Several studies have examined electronic media's role as a vector or facilitator of teen cyber dating abuse (Druaker, Baker, Zweig). Because electronic media allows for remote communication, it allows for perpetrators to harass or stalk their victims even when they are not together (Zweig). In the Zweig study (year) cited above, among the 26% of teens who were victims of cyber dating abuse, the most commonly reported form (9%) was use of a partner's account without permission. This was followed by unwanted texts and emails soliciting sex (7%); pressure to transmit nude photos (7%); and the receipt of threatening text messages or emails (6%). Electronic media use in the surveillance of dating partner's communications and activities is also cited in the literature on cyber dating abuse (Baker, Drauker).

Electronic media use in dating is commonly cited as the cause of jealousy in dating relationships, which in turn give rise to additional conflict (Baker and others). In fact, electronic media is seen by some as a means to intensify jealousy, leading to greater conflict than in traditional dating (Baker). Examples include a dating partner not changing their status to taken on a social media site, or even when the status is changed to taken, potential partners continuing to reach out. Other examples included boys carrying pictures of other girls on their mobile devices, having an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend as a Facebook friend, or a partner's delayed responses (Baker). Peers often aggravate conflicts (Baker) thereby normalizing:

  • Prevalence
  • Electronic media as a vector-what CDV looks like
  • Electronic violence and associations with later violence


Anderson report retrieved from https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/

Females experienced greater rates of victimization than males, with 15% the recipients sexual cyber dating abuse and 23% of non-sexual cyber dating abuse.

Media impacts behavior

SM impacts dynamics of teen behavior, normalization of cyber abuse

Rise of new form of violence-cyber dating violence

SLT-teens internalize this and this impacts future relationship behavior

Does this lead to ipv in longer term? (include assoc between peer dating violence and own violence)

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Teen Dating Violence and Social Media. (2019, Apr 10). Retrieved December 1, 2023 , from

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