Teens are at a high risk for dating violence, and often, especially with rapid changes in technology in today’s society, it can be complicated to know what is and is not appropriate within the bounds of a relationship. With social media and texting being such a big part of a teenager’s life, whole new ethical issues arise in young relationships. Is it a kind of abuse to share private photos or conversations saved online? Is it a sign of an abusive power dynamic if a partner demands your Facebook password?
A new initiative called “That’s Not Cool” is working to educate teens about dating violence. Focusing especially on technological aspects of dating violence, “That’s Not Cool” targets teens by marketing almost entirely through social media campaigns, through sites including Kik, Twitter, and Tumblr. The initiative aims to prevent dating violence by teaching teens what is and is not appropriate when it comes to the use of technology in relationships.
The campaign also includes a very interesting Tinder-style “Cool Not Cool” Quiz, which allows users to evaluate a simple dating situation and swipe left or right to choose whether this situation is “cool” or “not cool.” Each answer is then presented with a percentage poll and an explanation of why the situation portrayed is or is not inappropriate.
A great thing about this campaign is that they do not focus exclusively on male abuse of women, but on all kinds of abuse. They acknowledge that domestic abuse happens in LGBT relationships, as well as in straight relationships where women are the perpetrators.
Many of the issues addressed by the initiative are common problems faced by teenagers and young adults today, many of whom seem unclear on whether or not certain invasive acts are appropriate in their relationships. Digital abuse is a real problem in today’s relationships, but since it is a relatively new concept, many aspects of it still seem like a gray area. Here are some important things to remember about digital abuse:
- Respecting each other’s privacy is important. Reading a partner’s texts or messages without their permission is inappropriate because it is an invasion of privacy.
- Controlling behavior is also inappropriate. Texting excessively to check up on where a partner is, calling to confirm who he or she is with, or demanding social media passwords are all controlling behaviors which can be abusive. It is important to trust your partner and to give them personal time and space.
- Respect your partner’s personal relationships. Being unreasonably jealous of someone texting or messaging a partner can be very damaging to your relationship and your partner’s friendships.
- It is never okay to spread personal conversations or photographs without the other party’s permission. Especially sharing photographs or texts of a sensitive nature is a huge violation of a person’s privacy and can result in extreme social and psychological consequences.
These are only a few points that are made in the campaign, but they are crucial for many young people to understand. While many people may think that allowing their partner to access their personal account information is a sign of fidelity, it is often actually a sign that the partner does not trust them. Digital abuse occurs commonly in relationships that lack trust, and a relationship without mutual trust can easily turn abusive and is inherently unhealthy.
This initiative has the potential to be extremely helpful to many young people who are suffering from some form of digital abuse. As with all forms of abuse, education is the key to prevention and the “That’s Not Cool” Initiative could be a great way to spread the word about Digital Dating Violence.