Teen Dating Violence and Social Media

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Teen dating violence remains a widespread social problem in the United States with lasting impact on those who experience it. A national survey of in-school youth grades 9-12 found that 8% of those in dating relationships or who had gone out with someone had experienced physical and 7% had experienced sexual dating violence (Kahn, 2018).

An earlier study, which included other dimensions of dating abuse, found that 30% of 7th to 12th graders had experienced psychological dating abuse in the previous 18 months. (Halpern 2001). Adolescents who experience dating violence are more likely to x,y,z.

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Scholars in recent years have begun to examine the intersection between the rise in electronic communications and adolescent dating violence (citations). Some argue that increased access to and use of personal electronic devices have changed the very dynamic of teen relationships (Subrhamanyam and Greenfield, 2008), making them more susceptible to a new forms of dating violence (King-Ryes). One study found that among 3,745 youth who were dating or in a relationship, 26% had experienced some form of cyber dating abuse (Zweig 2014).

Several scholars have looked to Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977) to explain dating violence (Shorey, 2008; Branley and Covey, 2017; Temple et all, 2016, Branley). Social Learning Theory posits that one’s behavior, values, and attitudes emerge through observation and imitation and are reinforced (positively or negatively) through one’s environment. Since it does not rely on actual experience, modeling behavior from mass media [or electronic communications] has the potential for much broader influence on behaviors (Bandura 2001). This review seeks to understand, within the context of social learning theory, how electronic media use influence youth attitudes and behaviors around dating violence in real world (i.e. non-internet) settings. With unprecedented rates of electronic media use among youth (Anderson) and the prevalence of psychological and emotional violence in this new, often public, medium, do youth internalize these behaviors, impacting dating violence overall?

Adolescent Electronic Media Use

Adolescents’ access to and use of electronic media devices have grown markedly in the past decade (Lenhart, Anderson). Ninety-five % of youth ages 13-17 possess or can access a smart phone (Anderson 2018) compared with just 23% who reported smart phone ownership in 2011 (Lenhart 2012).

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