Open Lines of Communication Between Teens and Parents Key to Addressing Online Harassment and Dating Violence

SAN FRANCISCO - Text messages, social networking Web sites and cell phone cameras are all common means of communication for teenagers, allowing friends and family to have immediate contact with them and easily capture and share memories.  Unfortunately, in some cases, abusers may use these technologies to harass or intimidate a vulnerable teen when a relationship goes bad.

At Verizon's 3rd annual National Domestic Violence Summit, "Violence Prevention 3.0: Using Technology to Prevent Dating Violence and Domestic Violence," a panel of teenagers and of experts from nonprofits dedicated to domestic violence prevention discussed technology and its impact on dating violence and domestic abuse. 

Matthew Hanrahan of loveisrespect.org stressed that keeping lines of communications open between teens and parents is key to staying safe online and to making sure appropriate steps are taken if a child becomes a victim of online harassment or abuse.

"In many cases, threatening to take the computer away or forbidding the use of a particular social networking site is the wrong step," said Hanrahan. "Online communication is such an important part of many teens' lives that threatening to take it away could keep a teen from confiding in a parent about a potential problem."

The panel suggested several steps parents can take to improve communication with their teens and, in turn, help teens stay safe online:

  • Focus on genuine relationship-building. Parents must continually talk with their teens, so when they ask about a delicate issue the conversation does not feel forced.

  • Approach issues and mistakes in a nonjudgmental way, and always try to validate the teen's feelings and concerns.

  • Be vigilant about warning signs, including isolation from family and friends, jealousy and increasing jealous behavior, or being overly apologetic to make up for abuse.

Highlights from the panel discussion and other sessions at the daylong summit, held Sept. 26 in San Francisco, can be viewed online at www.verizon.com/foundation.

The video clips from the summit will be updated and expanded throughout October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The National Domestic Violence Summit is just one of the many domestic violence prevention programs that the Verizon Foundation has supported this year. Since 2006, the  foundation has awarded more than $12 million in grants to aid such programs.

The foundation's initiatives to support domestic violence awareness and prevention include:

  • Domestic Violence Awareness Month-Verizon Employee Campaign - The Verizon Foundation is partnering in October with the National Network to End Domestic Violence to match employee volunteers with agencies in need. Nonprofits are eligible for a $750 grant for every 50 hours an individual employee volunteers for the organization.

  • Coaching Boys into Men - The foundation awarded a $250,000 grant to this innovative program from the Family Violence Prevention Fund in which coaches of youth, high school and college sports teams incorporate into regular coaching activities messages on nonviolence and respect for women. http://www.endabuse.org/cbim/

  • Safety Net Online Video - Beginning Oct. 1, the Verizon Foundation Web site will feature a free online safety video from Cindy Southworth of the National Network to End Domestic Violence's Safety Net program. The video will inform viewers how they can protect themselves from potential abusers online and how technology can be used to aid victims of domestic violence.

The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, supports the advancement of literacy and K-12 education through its signature program, Thinkfinity.org, and fosters awareness and prevention of domestic violence.  In 2007, the foundation awarded more than $67.4 million in grants to nonprofit agencies in the United States and abroad. The foundation also matched the charitable donations of Verizon employees and retirees, resulting in $25.1 million in combined contributions. Through Verizon Volunteers, one of the nation's largest employee volunteer programs, Verizon employees and retirees have volunteered more than 3 million hours of community service since Verizon's inception in 2000.

For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a leader in delivering broadband and other wireline and wireless communication innovations to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers.  Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving nearly 69 million customers nationwide.  Verizon's Wireline operations include Verizon Business, which delivers innovative and seamless business solutions to customers around the world, and Verizon Telecom, which brings customers the benefits of converged communications, information and entertainment services over the nation's most advanced fiber-optic network.  A Dow 30 company, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of more than 228,600 and last year generated consolidated operating revenues of $93.5 billion.  For more information, visit www.verizon.com.