How to prevent partner violence from educational centers

Violent behaviors in romantic relationships among adolescents have become a priority area for analysis and intervention, and a public health problem with important social, physical, and psychological implications.

Cyberviolence is included in this category, since in recent decades violence in relationships between adolescents and young people has been changing very subtly and is often difficult to detect.

We understand intimate partner cyberviolence to be that which occurs through technological means, either directly (uploading compromising photos of the ex-partner, making threats through social networks, etc.) or in a more subtle way, through control (demanding the partner’s passwords to access their social media accounts or getting angry if they see that they are online but don’t respond right away).

Cyberviolence, like other types of violence, also has serious consequences: low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. In the case of happening during adolescence, it affects mental and cognitive training in general, the establishment of future social relationships, and their correct affective-social development.

For this reason, the World Health Organization emphasizes that work must begin on the prevention of violence in pre-adolescence and that prevention programs must be developed in the educational context. These should take into account all types of violence that occur in cyberspace, include content on healthy romantic relationships and intervention strategies to prevent and end unhealthy romantic relationships.

New forms of aggression

New technologies have become the perfect breeding ground for the appearance of new forms of aggression. On the other hand, cultural changes have led to changes in value systems, ideals, and the ways of conceiving and experiencing reality that individuals have.

In this sense, it has been verified that the rates of violence in its different forms are increasing and violence tends to normalize among adolescents (and not only among those who are most vulnerable or who present psychological disorders), in all contexts, including the couple context.

This new scenario represents a major challenge for research and intervention in the field of psychology and education, given the difficulty in responding to these questions following the paradigms on which these disciplines have relied so far.

There is a need to intervene preventively in intimate partner cyberviolence among adolescents and young people, and the need for this prevention to arrive before adulthood also seems evident.

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An effective program

Given the increasingly early appearance of this phenomenon and the consequences it has among adolescents, the PSIDES research team from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), made up of psychologists and social educators, carried out a systematic review of prevention of cyber violence between couples.

Bearing in mind that few programs were found with evidence of their effectiveness in dealing with this problem, the research group decided to create a program for the prevention of cyber-violence in intimate relationships specifically aimed at adolescents between 12 and 15 years of age.

This program has been implemented on a pilot basis in three schools in the Basque Autonomous Community and in a school in Mexico. The preliminary results of our program, not yet published, indicate that it helps the participating students to be more aware of what cyber-violence in a couple is, to better identify the risks of the Internet, to be more critical of the myths of romantic love and to show less sexist attitudes, among others.

Some of the keys to developing prevention are:

  1. Help build a healthy self-concept and self-esteem, since self-knowledge and positive self-assessment are essential to learn to protect ourselves.

  2. Learn to regulate emotions, especially anger. Being able to identify situations that generate anger in us, reflect on the emotional, behavioral and cognitive components of anger, and consider possible more adaptive alternatives.

  3. Reflect on gender stereotypes, identifying the most common stereotypes in society and implicit in our daily activities, and reflecting on the relationship they may have with intimate partner violence.

  4. Know the myths about romantic love, learn to detect them and analyze them from a critical perspective.

  5. Analyze what are considered risky behaviors on the Internet and in social networks.

  6. Detect the different types of violence in couple relationships, the people involved (aggressor or aggressor, victim and witnesses) and their consequences. Cyberviolence requires special attention, due to its risk of normalization among young people.

Educational Strategies and Commitments

Since minors have the right to a comprehensive education, the professionals who work with these minors must provide them, in addition to academic knowledge, with an education that helps them fully develop in all facets of life.

As the current Spanish education law points out, the educational system has to work, among other things, on health education, emotional education and values, including equality between men and women as a pillar of democracy.

That is to say, the educational system should guarantee an education in equality and for equality with special attention to the problems of its time and its environment in order to contribute to the formation of versatile, participatory and aware people in this regard.

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