Girls who undergo difficult behaviours from an online dating partner — such as monitoring, control, threats, pressure, or coercion using digital mediums — are more susceptible to serious emotional consequences than boys, a study says.
“Although digital dating abuse is potentially harmful for all youths, gender matters,” said lead author Lauren Reed, Assistant Project Scientist at University of California-Santa Barbara.
The findings revealed that girls showed more frequent digital sexual coercion victimisation.
They testified to being more distressed and had more negative emotional responses when confronted with behaviours like “pressured to sext” (sending a sexual or naked photo), sent a threatening message, looked at private information to check up without permission and scrutinized location and activities.
“Boys often treat girls as sex objects, which contributes to the higher rate of digital sexual coercion, as boys may feel entitled to have sexual power over girls,” added Richard Tolman, Professor at the University of Michigan.
Girls, on the contrary, are required to prioritise relationships, which can steer to more jealousy and possessive behaviour. Thus, they may also tend to monitor boys’ activities, Tolman said.
For the study, published in the Journal of Adolescence, the team inspected the impact of gender on 703 US high school students’ occurrence of digital dating abuse behaviours.
Both girls and boys conveyed equal levels of digital monitoring and control, and digital direct violence and hostility.
However, when faced with direct aggression, such as threats and rumour spreading, girls were found to react by blocking communication with their partner.