A new study conducted at The University of Texas Health Science Center shows that around fifteen percent of sixth-grade students reportedly committed at least one form of abuse toward a dating partner through technology.
The researchers analyzed survey results from 424 sixth-grade students in Southeast Texas who had a boyfriend or girlfriend and had just been enrolled in a trial for the study 'Me & You: Building Healthy Relationships'. The study is a classroom and computer-based curriculum to teach youth the importance of having healthy relationships and how to make good decisions in their relationships with peers, friends, family and future dating partners.
‘Interventions are needed to educate students about the dangers of dating violence.’
The survey was taken at the beginning of the trial before the students received the curriculum. The most common forms of cyber dating abuse among students were using a dating partner's social networking account without permission and making a dating partner afraid of not responding to their partner's calls or messages. The students, who were more likely to perpetrate cyber dating abuse had participated in bullying before and believed it was more normative for a boy to perpetrate violence against a girl.
"We still don't know if cyber dating abuse is really a distinct form of dating violence or if it's just dating violence being perpetrated through a new avenue. The literature has shown that there's a lot of overlap," said Melissa Peskin, the lead author of the study. Adding, "In this study, we did find that many of the factors associated with cyber dating abuse are also factors associated with traditional forms of dating violence."
Peskin stressed that interventions are needed to educate students about the dangers of dating violence. "We need interventions that focus on reducing dating violence but that also include lessons on how to have healthy relationships in the online environment," he said. The study results were published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.