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“When I was your age”

It’s technology, it’s the times, it was ‘never like this when I was your age’, if you weren’t on your phone all the time then maybe…

Understanding technology in younger relationships is one of the biggest barriers adults have in understanding and seeing teen relationships as ‘legitimate.’ 

Technology has expanded an extraordinary amount in the last 20 years, and it is extraordinarily easy to blame technology for the increase in mental health issues and abusive relationships. While it may be true that it has exacerbated the issue, whether we like it or not, technology is here to stay and will continue to grow in ways we don’t understand yet.

When we’re thinking about young people, especially in the pandemic, when they were physically cut off from everyone except their laptop or phone, it’s important to recognize that demonizing their devices does more harm than good. For the last several years technology has been this generation’s main way of communicating with people, friends and family. 

According to loveisrespect.org lack of awareness is a huge barrier in parents recognizing the warning signs of TDV. If you do not believe that TDV is an issue for everyone, even your child, you’re wrong.

  • Only 33% of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse.
  • Eighty-one (81) percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.
  • Though 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, a majority of parents (58%) could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse.

So now that we’re all on the same page as far as acknowledgement goes, what now?The dating scene for teens now is so vastly different from the way it was 10, 20, or even 5 years ago. 

 What are the warning signs of TDV?

Good question, ask your students, teens, and young people. Listen and understand that they may not tell you the whole story, along the same lines as the statistics above, less than 9% of teens in abusive relationships seek help and that’s rarely from parents or teachers. So who are they going to? Their friends, their peers, people online, the communities they know or feel safe in. They are seeking out people they feel will meet them with the support they need, and not a lecture, jokes, or punishment.

The best thing we can do to combat this issue is to first acknowledge that it is in fact a problem even if, ‘in your day dating was way easier.’ Try not to minimize feelings and demonize technology, the more you blame the only device that your teen feels most comfortable with, the more you push them away.

Possible questions to ask your teen to facilitate conversation instead of lecture:

  • How do you feel when your partner tells you what to do?
  • Do you feel safe in your relationship?
  • I’m so glad you feel happy in your relationship, I notice you don’t spend a lot of physical time with that person, is there anything I can do to facilitate some more in-person time?
  • What is the best way I can support you and your relationship right now?
  • When you’re on your phone, it feels like you’re not listening to me. Can we find a middle ground where we both feel heard?
  • I understand that your phone and conversations on your phone are really important to you and I respect that. What can we do together to make sure we both understand each other more?
  • I’m better with in person conversations but I know that can be hard for you sometimes, how would you feel about writing (or texting) out some of your feelings and we can talk about it when we both are feeling less stressed?

 

Further Reading

https://www.scarleteen.com/article/relationships

https://www.loveisrespect.org/

https://youth.gov/youth-topics/teen-dating-violence/resources