Online Dating Abuse Can Lead to Risky Behaviors in Teen Girls

Posted by on 11 15 13 in Love Addiction News | Comments Off on Online Dating Abuse Can Lead to Risky Behaviors in Teen Girls

The world once faced an industrial revolution. These days we are confronted with a digital revolution. So many things are changing at once that it can be difficult to comprehend how our new technologies are impacting us. Since young people tend to be more digitally connected, any repercussions can be expected to be most felt among them.

A Michigan State University study took a look at how online dating may be impacting young people. What they found was that a new dating format often equals a new way to abuse a dating partner.

We understand what physical or sexual abuse means, but what constitutes online dating abuse?  Rather than physical violence, online dating abuse takes the form of digital harassment, stalking via email or text messages, threatening language, attempts to control the partner or insulting them online. Some may shake their heads in disbelief that these sorts of problems rise to the level of violent physical abuses, but the Michigan State study demonstrates that these abuses do, in fact, negatively impact health and wellness among young adults.

For their research, the team questioned 585 college-age students asking them questions pertaining to health history and dating history. The results of that research showed that 67.4 percent of women and 57.1 percent of men had experienced some form of physical abuse from a dating partner while they were between the ages of 13 and 19 years.

Even more of the young men and women reported experiencing some form of non-physical abuse. Close to 65 percent of women and more than 56 percent of men said they had been insulted, yelled at or cursed by someone they were dating when they were 13 to 19 years old.  The researchers next looked to see how those experiences related to other risky or negative behaviors manifested in the lives of the young people.

Researchers found that young women who had been sexually or physically abused by someone they dated when they were 13 to 19 years old were almost four times more apt to smoke compared to young ladies who had never experienced abuse in their dating relationships. These young women faced a more than four-fold increased risk for developing specific eating disorders and were at greater risk for becoming depressed or participating in risky sex. Being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner during their teens put them at risk for other risky and problem behaviors.

But the negative outcomes were not isolated to young ladies who had experienced physical violence during teen dating. Women who had dealt with non-physical abuses during their teen years faced the very same increased risk of smoking. These young women also faced a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder, depression or engaging in high-risk sex as girls who’d known physical violence.

Interestingly, among men there appeared to be no difference in risks between men who had experienced physical or sexual violence during teen dating compared to men who had not had those experiences. However, men with non-physical abuse in those relationships did face an increased risk for smoking and certain eating disorders.

Young girls are very digitally connected. In one sense, online dating creates a safety barrier for teenage girls, insulating them from potential physical violence. In another sense, this digital dating environment creates a new kind of danger, one that still harms young women physically and emotionally. Physical and sexual abuses are not the only dangers confronting today’s young women.

This study shows that abusing dating partners via email and text also produces harm to physical wellness. It is important, says the lead researcher, that we begin to teach boys at young ages how to have a healthy relationship. Words, written or spoken, can cause harm. The technology is exciting, but we need to educate the next generation about how to use it respectfully.

It’s so easy to be verbally ugly when people aren’t face to face and the results are damaging. Verbal abuse needs to be exposed and tamed. Learning how to do that needs to start early.