How many text messages does your teen receive a day? According to Pew Internet 78 percent of American teens now have a cell phone and 88 percent of those teens use their cell phones to text. One in three teens sends more than 100 texts per day. Many parents feel a sense of security knowing that they can call or text their teen to find out exactly where they are and if they’re okay. However, many people fail to understand that the same device that can keep their teen safe could also harm them by allowing them to become victims of textual harassment.
What is Textual Harassment?
Textual harassment is a serious, growing problem in the United States. Just like any other form of abuse, textual harassers like to intimidate and control their victims using multiple tactics such as sending numerous and continuous text messages. The messages may vary from abusive in content to threatening in tone and are typically used to keep tabs on and bully a person. The Pew Research Center states one in three teens say they are text messaged 10, 20 and even 30 times an hour by a partner keeping tabs on them.
Textual harassment can even be used to sexually harass someone by pressuring the other person to send inappropriate pictures or threatening to distribute their inappropriate pictures.
Warning Signs of Abuse
Textual harassment can cause low self-esteem. Many teens don’t understand the dangers of textual harassment; some may even mistake the constant controlling behavior for love. Listed below are signs of abuse your teen may experience from his/her harasser:
- Constantly checking his/her phone without permission
- Talking down and making him/her feel bad about themself
- Extreme jealousy or insecurity
- Constant accusations about cheating, lying or not caring about him/her
- Mood swings
- Isolating his/her partner from family or friends
- Pressuring his/her partner into sexual interactions
What You Can Do?
There may not be any warning signs until the situation has become overwhelming. Make sure you talk to your teen about how to use a cell phone responsibly prior to giving him/her a phone. Here are some other tips on how you and your teen can handle the situation:
- Communication is Key: This is the most important thing you can do. If your teen is comfortable talking to you, he or she will be more likely to show you disturbing texts or even ask for your help if they are being bothered by text messages.
- Be Proactive: Help them understand the significance of giving their cell phone numbers to people and that they should only give their numbers to people they know and trust.
- Monitor The Bill: Check how many texts your teen is getting per day, and also the times and who is sending the text messages. Take note of any suspicious activity, like a heavy volume of messages from an unknown number and discuss this with your teen.
- Be a Techy Savvy Parent: A lot of parents get nervous when it comes to the latest gadgets, but if you are not aware of new technological advances and the way they impact your teen, you won’t be able to effectively protect them.
- Take Action: If someone is “textually” harassing your teen, document and save the messages. Notify the police if the text messages are threatening, and contact your carrier to block the sender. You may also want to consider changing their number or temporarily disabling their texts as well.
If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence please call the Hubbard House 24-hour domestic violence hotline at (904) 354-3114 or (800) 500-1119. Hubbard House can help.
ABOUT HUBBARD HOUSE: Founded in 1976, Hubbard House is a certified, comprehensive domestic violence center providing programs and services to more than 6,000 women, children and men annually in Duval and Baker counties. While Hubbard House is most known for its emergency shelter, the agency also provides extensive adult and youth outreach services, school-based education, therapeutic child care, batterers’ intervention programs, court advocacy and volunteer and community education opportunities. Visit http://www.hubbardhouse.org to learn more.
By Stephanie Perez and Jasmine Dionne Williams