If you could turn off their cell phones and unplug their iPods, what would you learn about your teen? Would you learn that they had a new hobby? Would you find out about a new crush? Or would you discover that they’ve been receiving a number of inappropriate messages?
“Textual” harassment is constantly sending texts, instant messages or emails in an attempt to harass or keep tabs on someone. Unfortunately, at a time where cell phones and unlimited texting plans are popular among young people, “textual” harassment has become a growing aspect of dating violence.
Here is a video from thatsnotcool.com that demonstrates “textual” harassment: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3n-eD_FdPc&w=560&h=315]
According to the Pew Research Center, 88 percent of teen cell phone users are text messengers and texting has now overtaken the frequency of every other common form of interaction with their friends.
“Texting has definitely changed relationship etiquette,” explains Betsy Kaupa, Lead Community Education and Training Specialist at Hubbard House. “Technology is exploding even as we talk about it.”
Kaupa teaches Hubbard House’s Relationship Abuse Prevention (RAP) program to local middle and high school students. The goal of RAP is to prevent future violence by educating students about violent and non-violent behaviors and healthy versus unhealthy dating relationships. RAP also covers bullying, harassment and stalking through technology – which unfortunately has become a growing issue among teens today.
The Pew Research Center states one in three teens say they are text messaged 10, 20 and even 30 times an hour by a partner keeping tabs on them.
“I stopped telling students a number and I started telling them to pay attention to how many and how fast,” said Kaupa. “They should be asking themselves how comfortable they feel receiving and responding to the messages, but the problem is a lot of teens don’t take the threats seriously.”
Many teens have a hard time distinguishing the difference between a partner who is caring and a partner who is controlling, they become accustomed to the harassment and therefore, fail to view it as such.
WHAT CAN YOU DO
82 percent of parents whose teens were emailed or text messaged 30 times an hour were not aware of the harassment. “Textual” harassment often goes unnoticed by parents because the messages are private and hard to block.
Kaupa explained that there may not be any warning signs until the situation is already overwhelming. So, she suggests having a conversation about the responsible use of cell phones before one is given. “There has to be some kind contractual boundaries set in place before a cell phone is given and parents should also consider why they want their teen to have one in the first place.”
The impact of “textual” harassment can be devastating. So, here are some tips on how you and your teen can handle the situation:
- Communication is Key: This is the most important thing you can do. If your teen is comfortable talking to you, he or she will be more likely to show you disturbing texts or even ask for your help if they are being bothered by text messages.
- Be Proactive: Help them understand the significance of giving their cell phone numbers to people and that they should only give their numbers to people they know and trust.
- Monitor The Bill: Check how many texts your teen is getting per day, and also the times and who is sending the text messages. Take note of any suspicious activity, like a heavy volume of messages from an unknown number and discuss this with your teen.
- Be a Techy Savvy Parent: A lot of parents get nervous when it comes to the latest gadgets, but if you are not aware of new technological advances and the way they impact your teen, you won’t be able to effectively protect them.
- Take Action: If someone is “textually” harassing your teen, document and save the messages. Notify the police if the text messages are threatening, and contact your carrier to block the sender. You may also want to consider changing their number or temporarily disabling their texts as well.
If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence please call the Hubbard House 24-hour domestic violence hotline at (904) 354-3114 or (800) 500-1119. Hubbard House can help.
ABOUT HUBBARD HOUSE: Founded in 1976, Hubbard House is a certified, comprehensive domestic violence center providing programs and services to more than 6,000 women, children and men annually in Duval and Baker counties. While Hubbard House is most known for its emergency shelter, the agency also provides extensive adult and youth outreach services, school-based education, therapeutic child care, batterers’ intervention programs, court advocacy and volunteer and community education opportunities. Visit www.hubbardhouse.org to learn more.
By Jasmine Dionne Williams