According to a new study, 15 percent of sixth-grade students report they have perpetrated at least one form of abuse toward a dating partner through technology.
For the study, researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health analyzed survey results from 424 sixth graders in southeast Texas.
The students, who had a boyfriend or a girlfriend, has just been enrolled in Me & You: Building Healthy Relationships, a classroom- and computer-based curriculum to teach young people the importance of having healthy relationships and how to make good decisions in their relationships with peers, friends, family, and future dating partners.
The survey was taken before the students received the curriculum, the researchers noted.
The most common forms of cyber dating abuse 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 study discovered.
The students who were more likely to perpetrate cyber dating abuse had participated in bullying before, according to the researchers. The students also believed it was more normal for a boy to perpetrate violence against a girl, researchers found.
“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, Ph.D., lead author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at University of Texas, Health School of Public Health.
“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,” said Peskin.
In future research, Peskin said she hopes to evaluate how participating in the Me & You program affects rates and perceptions about cyber dating abuse among students.
The study was published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.