Nowadays, technology becomes an integral aspect of our daily routine, and our lives become more exposed to cyberspace than before. When there is a hope that in the era of social distancing, technology can minimise the physical distance and provide a sense of empathy, there is also a risk that the same technology may deteriorate individual’s privacy and freedom. Since March 2020, I received 2 cases of Cyberbullying and one case of Cyber-Dating Abuse. Moreover, a massive increase in cyber abuse cases in India and Pakistan has been seen since the Covid-19 closure. Alone Pakistan has a tremendous 189% increase in cyber-harassment cases since April 2020. There are loads of researches available on the topic of Cyberbullying, and you can Google it at your ease. However, in this short article, I will discuss two critical questions that, I believe, every teen and parent should ask before engaging in any sort of online social activity. Why and how teenagers around the world, including Pakistan, are becoming more prone to cyber harassment than before? What is Digital Dating Abuse, and how it affects me or my kid’s social development?
According to Cyberbullying Research Centre founders Sameer Hinduja, more than 28.1% of teens have become the victim of some sort of cyber harassment. In his research, he states that digital dating abuse is the most recent form of cyber harassment that results in severe teen abuse, and in some cases, even suicides.
Digital Dating Abuse (DDA)
It is a form of abuse where the assailant uses technology to repetitively harass a romantic partner with the intent to control, coerce, intimidate, annoy or threaten them. The process can be, but not limited to, involve:
- Go through their device without their permission.
- Keep them from using their device.
- Steal their device.
- Threaten them via text.
- Post something publicly online to embarrass or threaten them.
- Post private pictures of them without their permission.
DDA: Name-Calling and Rumour-Spreading
There are many forms of DDA, for example, Name-calling and rumour-spreading. This type of bullying has long been an unpleasant and challenging aspect of adolescent life. However, due to the recent rise of smartphone usage, it has transformed where, when and how bullying takes place. Research says, around 42% of teens say they have been called offensive names once their online dating exposed by their fake partner(attacker). Moreover, about a third of teens say that most of the time, the fake partner has spread false rumours about them on the internet. In contrast, smaller shares have had someone other than a parent constantly ask where they are, who they’re with or what they’re doing or have been the target of physical threats online.
DDA: Teens, Sexting, and Depression
Another form of abuse is to emphasising on sending nude pictures (sexting) while engaging in online dating. Research finds that participants who had sent a “sext” were five times more likely to be targeted for online relationship abuse than teens who hadn’t sexted. Moreover, online harassment and cyberbullying can contribute to teen depression, as well. Students who reported depressive symptoms were about four times as likely to have experienced digital dating abuse.
It’s not only online abuse. According to Sue Scheff, an advocate and family internet safety expert and the author of Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate, believe that an estimated 36% teens complain that they’ve been a victim of at least one form of offline dating abuse such as being pushed, grabbed, shoved, hit, threatened physically, called names, or being prevented from doing something they wanted to do.
In her article, she believes that almost one-third of boys (32.3%) were likely to have experienced digital dating abuse compared to just less than a quarter of girls (23.6%)
It’s now or Never – Think Before Act
Students, being a teacher, it is my job to advocate the correct use of education for the betterment of humanity. However, being only educated will not makes you a conscious soul. Being mindful about our actions also become essential in today’s technologically evolved globalised world. Parents, it is vital to take an active interest in our adolescent’s digital lives, but without breaking their self-esteem. Not always, if your child having more screen time with his/her friends means they are on a date. Remember, more than our wisdom, they need a helping and trustworthy friend in the form of mom and dad, so in the time of despair, they can share their misery with you.
Good Luck 😊