Have you ever had unwanted photos or texts sent to you? Has someone used your phone or social media without your permission? Or have you ever received uncomfortable or pressuring messages or DMs? All of this can be a form of digital abuse. Digital abuse is becoming increasingly more common and can come from anyone- including even the person you are in a relationship with. We are all constantly surrounded by technology, so it is important to know what digital abuse is and what to do.
What are the signs of digital abuse?
Coercion is when someone is peer pressuring you into doing something that you don’t want to do or are uncomfortable doing. This could be in the form of someone asking you to send naked pictures online or to share information you do not feel comfortable sharing.
To degrade someone is to put them down, devaluing them or belittling them. If you receive comments or criticism online this can be degrading, such as someone commenting on how you look in a picture or a making mean or negative remarks on something you post.
When someone is threatening to share embarrassing information about you with others (that includes sharing or posting photos or personal information) this is a form of digital abuse.
When someone controls how another person interacts online this can be a sign of digital abuse. This can include if someone watches who you speak to online or who you add or follow as a friend.
How to create healthy relationships online
With a large amount of our time spent online it is another aspect of life which impacts on our relationships. Just as it is important to feel confident in relationships offline it is important to feel confident with our relationships and interactions online. To create healthy realtionships online there are certain standards we can set for ourselves to make sure our interactions online are positive.
Talk about boundaries and comfort levels
It is important to talk with your partner about what you find comfortable and uncomfortable regarding texting and social media and it is also important to set up boundaries regarding technology as well- after having this talk both of you should be understanding and considerate of your partner’s feelings and views.
Know that you don’t need to tell people your whereabouts
If you feel as if your partner is using your social media to keep track of you this is not a good sign. If they are always asking where you are, telling you not to go places, or demands to know who you are with, these are signs of an unhealthy relationship- know that you are not required to tell them where you are.
Take a break
If you feel that social media or the need to be in contact online with someone is causing fights it might be a good idea to take a break from being online. Being in constant contact with someone online can lead to unhealthy expectations from people of the time and attention you should give to them. It is a positive thing to be able not to call or text your partner when you are out with friends so that you can enjoy your time apart and look forward to when you will speak again in the future.
What can I do if I am being abused online?
Digital abuse and harassment online can be difficult to deal with on your own and people often find it helpful to be able to talk to someone about it. So if you are experiencing any form of digital abuse or harassment online and feel as if you need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to get in contact with any of these organisations: Samaritans, Childline and TeenLine.