Girls who experience problematic behaviours from an online dating partner — such as monitoring, control, threats, pressure, or coercion using digital mediums — are more prone to suffering severe 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 showed that girls indicated more frequent digital sexual coercion victimisation.
They reported being more upset and had more negative emotional responses when faced 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 monitored whereabouts 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 other hand, are expected to prioritise relationships, which can lead to more jealousy and possessiveness. Thus, they may be more likely to monitor boys' activities, Tolman said.
For the study, published in the Journal of Adolescence, the team examined the impact of gender on 703 US high school students' experience of digital dating abuse behaviours.
Both girls and boys reported equal rates of digital monitoring and control, and digital direct aggression.
However, when confronted with direct aggression, such as threats and rumour spreading, girls were found to respond by blocking communication with their partner.