Before the internet, abuse was harder to perpetrate in public spaces. Today, abuse flourishes day and night in the public space that is the internet.
Similar to how a home can become a place of fear for victims of domestic abuse because of the lack of witnesses, the internet allows perpetrators of abuse to carry out hurtful communications and actions privately and even anonymously.
While technology use spans age groups, it is particularly integrated into the lives of youth with one study reporting youth spending more time with tech than any other activity besides sleeping (Roberts & Foehr, 2008). And it’s hard to blame them. Youth are entering a technology-first world where the majority of their interests and needs can be most efficiently met online.
A lot of what we do is increasingly moving onto the internet, including darker sides of human behavior, like abuse.
With the state of things, what do we need to do to support teens as they grow up online?
Keep an Eye Out for Signs of Abuse
Parents and teachers are not seeing what happens online or in text messages and other private online communications platforms. It makes it all too easy for teens to become victims of abuse and it to go unnoticed, but can help to know what signs of abuse look like.
Some of the signs of tech-enabled or digital abuse are the same as other forms of abuse, like isolation or anxiety and depression. The less obvious indicators might be being glued to devices coupled with receiving messages constantly. These may come in the form of texts, emails, or messages via social media.
Connect & Listen
While it may be challenging to express concern without seeming intrusive, if you are worried that a teenager in your life is dealing with digital abuse, it’s okay to express concern. If you need help figuring out what to say to help or what resources to offer, you can reach out to CORA any time for advice. Our hotline is 800.300.1080.