MTV has created athinline.org as a resource for teens who may be dealing with digital abuse. For those unfamiliar, this is a broad term for any form of harassment or mistreatment through digital means, with cell phones being the chief digital medium.
The findings from this study reflect much of what we already know from previous studies on sexting and cyberbullying:
* 1/3 of those aged 14-24 have engaged in some form of sexting
* Females are slightly more likely to have sent a naked picture or video of themselves, while males are more likely to receive a naked photo or video
* About 20% of the same age range have experienced some form of cyberbullying, usually in the form of spreading lies or online impersonation
Pretty standard stuff and not really telling us anything new. What is interesting in this study is the finding that cell phones are increasingly being used as digital leashes in relationships. While we often suspect that technology is making people more disconnected, less attentive, and perhaps less modest, this study shows that mobile technology is actually making young people more like their parents.
According to the study’s section on dating, roughly one quarter of respondents reported that their significant other (SO) checked up on them multiple times per day, and that the SO has checked texts and messages on their phone without permission. One tenth reported having an SO demand their passwords or that they defriend someone on a social network.
My senior year of high-school was when my friends began to get their first cell-phones, digital dinosaurs by today’s standards. I was impressed with the cutting-edge technology and a bit jealous—until I saw how the phones were being used. My friends were getting called on the hour, every hour, by nervous parents wanting to know their whereabouts and every move. Every new place we went, they called their parent to tell them: We’re at the mall; We’re at the Shop-a-Snak; We’re back at So-and-So’s.
Apparently the immediacy afforded by today’s devices is turning young paramours into recycled versions of helicopter parents.