Digital Dating & Abuse

We live in a digital age. We can use technology to do homework, order food, and even enhance relationships. It is important to keep in mind that while there are many, many benefits to digital relationships, there are also potential dangers, unique to relationships in the digital world.

What is Digital Abuse?

Like other forms of abuse, digital abuse is a pattern of power and control, using technology as the tool to perform abusive behaviors. 

Digital abuse is very common in teen relationships. Chances are you or someone you know has experienced digital abuse from a dating partner, acquaintance, or friend.

It is also likely that you have been guilty of some of these behaviors yourself. That doesn't make you an abusive person, but it does mean that you need to change your behaviors before it gets to that point. However, none of these are acceptable ways to behave in a healthy, respectful relationship.

Get information on helpful resources for healing, or changing abusive behaviors.

The Most Common Digitally Abusive Behaviors for Teens are


Digital Dating Abuse

What is it?

  • Using technology as a tool to gain power and control over a dating partner.

What does it look like?

  • Your partner tries to control your other digital relationships by telling you who you can and can't interact with on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media platforms.

  • Your partner demands access to your devices, social media accounts, etc.

  • Your partner reads your text messages and/or emails without your freely given permission.

  • Your partner constantly texts and/or calls you, or demands "check-in's".

  • Your partner doesn't respect your boundaries regarding sexting, nudes, etc.

  • Your partner sends you negative or insulting texts, tweets, or dm's.

  • Your partner uses technology to keep track of where you go and who you hang out with.

  • Your partner sends you threatening, coercive or abusive messages.

  • Your partner shares, or threatens to share private, personal information about you.


What is it?

  • Sending or sharing sexually explicit content such as text, emojis, photos, videos, etc. through a digital device or using an online network.

What's the harm? Sexting may seem innocent enough, but consider the following before pushing that "send" button

  • It is illegal to send nude photos of yourself or anyone else to anyone under the age of 18.
  • It is illegal to send nude photos of yourself, or anyone else is you are under the age of 18.
  • Even using apps that "delete" content, such as Snapchat is very dangerous. That content is never really gone and can be accessed if necessary. There is also no guarantee that a screenshot wasn't taken of that image before the app "erased" it.
  • Even if you and your partner are both over 18, and consent to sexting, you have ZERO control over what happens to those photos after pushing "send".
  • North Carolina's Revenge Porn Law makes it illegal to expose private videos or photos. This doesn't have to be "revenge" or even an intimate partner. For more information on NC's Revenge Porn Law website.


What is it?
  • Using digital devices or online networks (computers, cell phones, tablets, social media, online gaming, etc.) as a tool to share information about an individual or group with the intention of causing harm or embarrassment.
  • You can also be guilty of cyber-bullying indirectly. For example, sharing a harmful post someone else created, "liking" or following or commenting on posts in ways that perpetuate the harm already done, etc.
  • Learn about ways you can intervene and stop any cyber-bullying behaviors you see.
Why is it harmful?

  • Cyber-bullying is persistent. We can experience this type of digital abuse anytime, anywhere, 24 hours a day, making it difficult to find relief and time for healing.
  • Cyber-bullies can hide their identity behind a username or handle, making it hard to know who they are. Because cyber-bullying is digital, parents, teachers, coaches, and other trusted adults often don't recognize it is taking place. This makes it difficult for victims to get the much-needed help these resources can offer.
  • Once something is posted in the virtual world it can't be undone. Even if the post or comment is erased, or an app is used where content "disappears," it is always in cyber-space and can be found, if necessary.
  • The physical and mental health of victims and abusers, as well as future college prospects and career opportunities, can all be seriously affected by cyber-bullying. Even if a comment is erased after being posted, the harm done to another human cannot be erased or disappear with the click of a button.
All U.S. states and territories have initiated anti-bullying policies that involve sections on cyber-bullying, some of which are prosecutable by law. See North Carolina's Anti-Bullying Laws & Policies at
Learn More

Advice for Teens

 If you, or someone you know has experienced digital abuse (as a victim or as an abuser), please consider these resources to get the help and healing you need.
Source 1  |  Source 2  |  Source 3  |  Source 4  |  Source 5