Digital Abuse:  What Parents Should Know

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., ACCESS Media Relations Specialist
February 23, 2018

Most of the time we think of online technology in a good way. It makes our lives easier and gives us access to a world of information. On the downside, it’s increasingly become a weapon used against us.  One area of concern is dating violence. According to a recent study, 26 percent of teens in a romantic relationship said their partners had digitally abused them during the previous year using social media, email and text messages. With so many teens online, they become more vulnerable to such abuse. ACCESS is hoping to increase awareness and create more dialogue around digital abuse. Here’s what parents should know:

What is digital abuse?

Digital abuse occurs when a person uses online technology to victimize another individual. Types of abuse include texting degrading messages, sending explicit photos that pressure individuals to engage in unwanted sexual acts or publicly humiliating individuals on social media. Girls are digitally victimized more often than boys.

Indicator for other types of abuse

Online abuse is just one form of sexual harassment. Often times, the offender also uses other forms of abuse to control his/her victims, such as psychological or physical abuse. Only four percent of teens in a relationship say the abuse and harassment they experienced was digital alone.

Take action

With teens spending 5.5 hours online every day, it may seem impossible to protect our kids. But there are some steps you can take to reduce their risk.

  • Start a conversation – Ask your teen if they know about digital abuse. Do they know someone who has been a victim? Keep the dialogue going. Let them know they should come to you if it ever happens to them or a friend. 
  • Invade their privacy – It’s tough, but as parents it’s our job to know what our kids are doing. Explain to your teenager you will be randomly checking emails and texts. Also, make it a policy to follow them on social media channels, i.e. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  
  • Be an advocate – That’s Not Cool is an organization that’s dedicated to decreasing teen violence online and offers tools to help raise awareness about digital abuse.

ACCESS offers a wide range of behavioral health services and programs to help you or someone you know who may be a victim of online abuse or dating violence. Contact us if you or someone you know needs help.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Futures Without Violence