Local specialist brings awareness to teen dating violence


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 11 female and approximately 1 in 15 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence.

The dating landscape has changed so much over the last generation. It can be hard for parents to spot and help their teens when there’s a problem in their dating lives.

Gina Boscarino, a group specialist with Wedgwood Christian Services advises parents to be on the lookout for any behavior that is not typical for their teen.

“Parents know what their teens are like. If you notice that your teen seems more withdrawn, if it seems like they might be dressing differently, spending more time on the phone, maybe not spending as much time with friends or activities that they enjoy. All of those things can be red flags that they’re in an unhealthy relationship,” Boscarino said.

Cell phones and social media have changed the game when it comes to teen dating. Boscarino says sexting happens a lot more often than parents know or would like to admit.

“Kids use those pictures to manipulate one another — they might threaten to show another person and they use them to shame the other person or get them to do things they wouldn’t usually do,” Boscarino said.

Boscarino encourages parents to take advantage of teachable moments such as discussing relationships depicted in TV shows or movies and asking teens about their friends’ relationships.

“I think the most important thing is to just talk to your kids about healthy relationships. Talk to your kids about what their expectations are like in a relationship,” Boscarino said.

More information on teen dating violence can be found on the CDC’s website and Wedgwood Christian Services’ website.

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