Bright Idea: Use This iPhone App to Learn About Digital Abuse

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A happy young woman texting.

Controlling behavior and emotional abuse in teen dating relationships are nothing new. But technologies like smart phones, texting and social networking sites have made young people vulnerable to new avenues of harassment and abuse—because abusers can reach them anytime, anywhere.

Parents and youth service providers might not understand the seriousness of so-called digital abuse or know how to help. That's why Liz Claiborne Inc.'s Love Is Not Abuse campaign against dating violence created an iPhone app to help grown-ups get the seriousness of the problem.

"Even if you have experienced some type of abuse in your life, it probably wasn't digital or on social media," says Jane Randel, director of Love Is Not Abuse.

The Love is Not Abuse app mimics the controlling and abusive behaviors teens might face in their relationships. It simulates the text messages, emails, and calls young people receive from abusive partners: checking up, harassing, deleting their friends from social media, threatening violence, sexting and so on. Randel says that this helps adults "to really get a feel for what it is the kids are experiencing, and what it is that people are talking about when they say 'digital dating abuse.'"

The Love is Not Abuse app also helps adults learn:

  • Warning signs of abuse and the ways dating abuse manifests itself in teen relationships
  • Immediate, concrete steps they can take if they are concerned that a young person may be a victim of dating abuse
  • Resources for help outside such as loveisrespect.org, the National Dating Abuse Helpline and other services
  • Action steps to educate teens
  • How to talk to teens about dating violence

Randel suggests that youth service providers could use the app to help young people recognize what isn't a healthy relationship. "It's not healthy if someone emails, and texts and calls you twenty times an hour," she says. The app can be convincing for teens, she says, because "it's not coming from a parent or a teacher or whatever—it's coming from the phone."

The Love is Not Abuse app is available free through the Apple iTunes app store. To create the app, Love is Not Abuse partnered with the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Joyful Heart Foundation, Verizon Foundation, Wired Safety, Break the Cycle, Love Is Respect, MTV, Futures Without Violence, Seventeen Magazine, Mom Central and the American School Counselors Association. For a preview, visit the Love is Not Abuse website.

Additional Resources

"Bright Idea: Mobile Apps Foster Community and Combat Abuse"

"Hooking Up With Teens to Promote Healthy Relationships"

"Keeping Teens Safe in the Social Networking Era"

Dating Matters: Understanding Teen Dating Violence Prevention, an online training sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Liz Claiborne Inc.

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