Adolescents’ perceptions of the role and impact of the use of technology in cyber dating violence

Cyber Dating Violence (CDV) is the psychological abuse and/or perpetration of violent act among dating partners via the use of technology (mobile phones, texting, instant messenger, social networking sites, email, etc.). CDV includes behaviours such as threats, humiliation, non-consensual distribution of personal information or images, sexual pressure, checking up on a partner’s whereabouts, monitoring a partner’s messages, demanding a partner’s passwords to phones or online accounts, deleting a partner’s contacts or friends from social media and so on. Some of these behaviours are unique to CDV, while others can be present both on- and offline. In particular, Adolescent Dating Violence (ADV) takes place within this context but involves teenagers.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can influence the dynamics of dating violence by providing opportunities for constant contact through mobile or online tools, thereby providing more opportunities for abusive and controlling behaviour. Adolescents use ICT to establish, maintain and end relationships.

In this study, Karlie Stonard from the University of Wolverhampton seeks to understand adolescents’ perceptions of the role and impact of the use of ICT in CDV.

Participants included 54 male and female adolescents aged 13–16 years old recruited via either a secondary school or youth club setting in England. The participants were grouped into seven focus groups in which they were asked to discuss their perceptions towards the role and impact of ICT in CDV behaviours.

Two themes emerge from the thematic analysis, which capture adolescent’s perceptions of a dual role of ICT in CDV instigation and victimization. ICT in CDV was viewed as enabling and disenabling CDV.

For instigators, ICT was perceived to be enabling through facilitating CDV. Indeed, according to participants, the availability and immediacy of ICT potentially facilitate CDV as it provides an opportunity for instigators to contact a partner repeatedly and directly at any time of the day or night. Moreover, the anonymity offered by ICT gives abusers more confidence in their behaviour due to the physical distancing from their victim.

For victims, ICT was perceived to be both enabling, through motivating response, resilience, and/or providing a coping mechanism, and disenabling through resulting in potentially enhanced harm or embarrassment as a result of CDV behaviours. In cases of CDV, ICT allows the victim to remove or block the abuser, provides digital evidence of abuse, present less harm or threat due to physical distancing with the abuser and gives confidence for the victim to voice their feelings or retaliate.

However, the public nature and permanence of ICT (for example, social media). The distribution of information or image online, as well as the spreading of rumor on social media, was considered a humiliating form of abusive behaviour. As such, ICT was viewed as removing victim’s control over materials posted online or shared by others. Most important, in some circumstances, the use of ICT in CDV could lead to offline violence.

This study highlights the importance of raising awareness on the healthy use of ICT in teenagers’ relationship.

To cite: Stonard, K. E. (2020). “Technology was designed for this”: Adolescents’ perceptions of the role and impact of the use of technology in cyber dating violence. Computers in Human Behavior, 105