A High-Tech Campaign To Combat Dating Violence

by Emma Cueto

When people think about abusive relationships, we rarely think of teenagers, but dating violence unfortunately affects a large number of teens. But a new ad campaign called That's Not Cool is hoping to combat teen dating violence and help young people have healthier relationships. Not only that, but they're doing it using the digital platforms teens are familiar with, like YouTube.

Although we might think of abusive relationships or intimate partner violence as something that only happens to adults, 1.5 million high school students in the United States are the victims of physical abuse from a dating partner every year. Teenage girls in particular are at risk, with one in three experiencing physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner, according to CDC estimates. The CDC also states that one of the key factors that increases the risk of dating violence among teens is believing "that dating violence is acceptable."

Which is precisely why teaching teens about dating violence is so crucial — not just because it can save them pain during their teenage years, but because making sure young people understand what healthy relationships are like will lay an important foundation for the rest of their lives. It's awesome to see campaigns like That's Not Cool, which teaches teens to recognize things that are, well, not cool.

The campaign is playing out on digital platforms such as YouTube, Kik, and even a Tinder-like "Cool or Not Cool" quiz, in which participants swipe left or right to indicate how they feel about a scenario. “We know the best way to reach [teenagers] is through these unconventional mediums like YouTube or Kik,” Yesenia Gorbea, a program specialist at campaign partner Futures Without Violence, explained to The Daily Dot. “We’ve learned through our experience with more conventional advertising campaigns that when you want to reach teenagers, you need to reach them where they are at.”

On Kik, users can add “thatsnotcool," and if they message the account, it will walk them through various dating scenarios, letting them identify what is "cool" or "not cool." The campaign's online quiz works on the same sort of principle, posting scenarios and letting users swipe left or right for "not cool" or "cool," respectively.

On YouTube, the campaign involves videos from popular creators such as Meghan Rienks, a YouTuber with 1.7 million subscribers who is part of AdCouncil's “Creators for Good” program. Her video, "Relationship Goals vs. Relationship Fails," was posted on Tuesday.

Reaching out to teens online is a great way to make your message more relevant. And including examples that recognize the digital dimensions of dating, such as texting, passwords, and social media are even better. Hopefully, all this is enough to clarify for many teens what it means to be in a healthy relationship and allows them to recognize unhealthy behaviors before they escalate. Because being a teenager doesn't somehow mean that abuse is more trivial or unimportant. And teen dating violence needs to end.

Images: Michael Patterson/Flickr; Giphy;