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Tech a tool in teen dating abuse, survey finds

By Brianna Keilar and Katie Ross
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(CNN) -- Nearly one in four teens communicated hourly with his or her partner by cell phone or text messaging between midnight and 5 a.m., according to a survey conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, a research organization specializing in research on teens and young adults.

Shaina Weisbrot, now a sophomore at Rutgers University, says as a teenager she was in a controlling relationship that eventually turned violent. She recalls staying on the phone until 5 a.m. some nights, arguing with her boyfriend. "I'd be in my room. I'd pretend to be sleeping. I'd shut the lights and I'd be quiet, and no one would know the difference because all you had to do was hide your cell phone."

About one in three teens surveyed who have been in a relationship said their partner had text messaged them 10, 20 and up to 30 times per hour to find out where they are, what they're doing, or who they're with.

Dr. Jill Murray, a psychologist who specializes in teen relationship violence, says that kind of questioning goes beyond casual conversation and amounts to controlling behavior. "The technology sets up the opportunity for constant stalking, for constant communication, for constant intimidation and threatening behavior, " Murray said at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. "So we're seeing an increase in teen dating abuse and I believe that this is a good part of it."

The survey also showed parents are generally unaware of the extent of their teen's online and cell phone activities. Seventy-two percent of teens who reported being checked on 10 times per hour by e-mail or text messaging said they did not tell their parents. Almost half of the teens surveyed said technology made it easier to conceal controlling behavior from their parents.

Half of the parents surveyed said they can control how much their child communicates with their boyfriend or girlfriend but only 28 percent said they put any limit on their teens activities.

Murray recommends parents "Take away ... the cell phone when your child goes to sleep. If they would lock the computer when the child goes to sleep and stop having it in their rooms, then we could stem the tide of this a little bit."

Aside from the constant communication with their boyfriend or girlfriend, experts say teens who are in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship will often isolate themselves from family and friends as well as follow their partners every word on choice in friends and what clothes they wear.

The survey data were released Thursday in conjunction with the launch of a The National Teen Dating Abuse Helplineexternal link, a nationwide resource that includes an interactive Web site and toll-free phone number, 866-331-9474.

About one in three teens surveyed said their partner had text messaged them 10, 20 and up to 30 times per hour.


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