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Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month - Online Connections

PHOTO: 30 percent of teen girls reported having offline meetings with people they met on the Internet.
PHOTO: 30 percent of teen girls reported having offline meetings with people they met on the Internet.
February 7, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa - New research finds the Internet can be a particularly dangerous place for teenage girls. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and the lead author of the study, psychologist Jennie Noll, said 30 percent of teen girls report meeting with people they met on the Internet.

Noll, a psychologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said the research shows those meetings are more likely to happen for girls who engage in high-risk behaviors. Those who troll the web for vulnerable teens are looking for a specific type of online profile, she explained.

"A girl who has maybe put herself in a bikini, or describes herself as a sexual person or as someone willing to engage in some sexual conversation," Noll said, "might be the person that they stop and talk to."

Parents can do a lot to change their child's behavior; they just need to be willing to have those hard conversations about the dangers online, she added.

Establishing good face-to-face family communication time that doesn't involve being plugged in can go along way in building trust, Noll said. The lines of communication can easily be shut down if a teenager simply thinks he or she is being spied on, though, Noll warned.

Tess Cody, a counselor with the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said such violence can take various forms.

"Of course, there is physical violence and sexual violence," she said, "but it's also made up of other things, like emotional abuse, verbal abuse, other forms of control and ways of leveraging control over your partner."

The new study is part of a larger body of Dr. Noll's work on high-risk Internet behaviors. It was published in the eFirst pages of the journal Pediatrics, available at http://tinyurl.com/aaack49.

Richard Alan, Public News Service - IA