Teen Dating Violence in the Technological Age

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What role do our new technologies play in teen dating violence? According to an August 2010 study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, they play a significant one.  Electronic technologies have given us the ability to stay in constant touch with our loved ones which, in theory, is a good thing but not, necessarily, in practice.  The study found that in relationships where there is verbal, emotional, and physical violence, electronic aggression serves as another possible source of cruelty. 

The study’s lead author, Dr. Claire Burke Draucker, said her research team sought to identify technology’s role in dating after doing interviews with young adults where they were surprised “by the large role that electronic technologies, such as cell phones and the Internet, played in the dating violence stories.”  According to Dr. Draucker, “the use of technologies adds dimensions to the dating violence experience that are not well understood.  For example, if a partner calls a teen a derogatory name on Facebook, the insult stays indefinitely and it is seen by many, and therefore is likely to have different effects than if said privately.” 

More specifically, the perpetrators of teen dating violence used technology to control their partners’ behaviors by influencing who they socialize with and to verbally abuse them.  Abusers would repeatedly call their partners to find out where they were, who they were with, and to berate them if they were with someone the abuser saw as a threat.  The verbal abuse occurred as phone messages, abusive text and email messages, and even abusive websites dedicated to the victims of the attacks.  Abusers would also use electronic technology to invade privacy by taking the victims’ mobile telephone to look at call and text histories or to hack into a social networking email to look for incriminating evidence of infidelity.

Finally, Dr. Draucker points out that both parents and clinicians need to be aware of the possibility of electronic aggression.  For clinicians, those “who work with adolescents who are at risk for dating violence should explore whether they use electronic technologies aggressively or whether they are the recipients of aggression via electronic technologies.”  Likewise, parents need to be aware that of this potential use of electronic technologies as “many of the participants in our study did not tell their parents about the aggression they experienced as a result of the technologies, although they were deeply disturbed by it.”

By Rosemary Prem
Rosemary Prem is a 2010 graduate of the Psychology program at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.  She has minors in Social Change and Development and Theater and is currently applying to graduate programs in Psychology.

The Foul Language of Politics

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We have been asked by some of our readers, as an addendum to a previous post on anger and politics, to write something about the tragic shooting in Arizona last week.  While it feels premature to comment on the motivations of the shooter, it seems reasonable to write more about the anger and aggression so prevalent in American politics. 

Much has already been made of the vitriolic language used by some candidates during this last election.  While this election cycle did seem more aggressive than most, there may be a deeper problem when it comes to how we talk about politics in America.  That is, our use of war as a metaphor for elections. 

Think for a moment about any one of the last few presidential elections.  In each case, the battle for the White House began with someone launching their campaign, traveling to battleground states to make their case and taking shots at their opponent.  In return, their opponent fired back, blasting them for their positions.  Back in the war rooms, their strategists plan to launch their next attack ad, targeting their opponent’s stances.  This continues… the candidates are bashed, hit, or dealt a blow, districts are targeted, candidates take aim, they fight for endorsements, they gain and lose ground, they go on the offensive, they defend themselves from attacks until, eventually, the showdown comes to an end and one is defeated

In fact, though most do not tend to think of it this way, even the word “campaign” has a military meaning: “A series of military operations undertaken to achieve a large-scale objective during a war” (American Heritage Dictionary, 2000).  In other words, the war metaphor is so deeply engrained in how we think of politics that even the word most often used to describe the process is combat term.  Such language is not meaningless.  How we talk about something is a reflection of how we think of it.    

There are other metaphors sometimes used to describe elections; the race metaphor or the debate metaphor.  Might we be better off if we thought of elections less as aggressive conflict and more as “an extended competition in which participants struggle to be the winner” or “a discussion involving opposing points”? To approach things this way means that candidates take the lead instead of gaining ground, they score points instead of taking shots or dealing blows, and they push to the finish line instead of going on the offensive. While not perfect, these may reflect healthier perspectives.

By Ryan C. Martin
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