News Release: School of Medicine

Nov. 18,  2010

Start Strong Atlanta Launches Innovative Social Networking Site to Prevent and End Teen Dating Abuse

News Article ImageOn KeepItStrongAtl.org teens can dissect and discuss media influences on relationships and learn skills to build healthy relationships.

Start Strong Atlanta announces the launch of a social networking site for teens about developing relationships free from violence. The site, www.KeepItStrongATL.org is an interactive resource spreading the message that violence in relationships is never acceptable. On KeepItStrongATL.org, teens can dissect and discuss media influences on relationships and learn skills to build healthy relationships.

Start Strong Atlanta was created in 2008 when the Jane Fonda Center at Emory University received $1 million in funding through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s national Start Strong initiative. The center was one of 11 community organizations nationwide to receive funding.

Teen dating violence and abuse is real, and it is a serious threat to young people. According to the 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, nearly one out of 10 high school students nationwide has been physically hurt on purpose by their girlfriend or boyfriend. Here in Georgia, one out of every six high school students experiences physical abuse at the hands of their partner. That means one out of every six high school students in Georgia reports being punched, hit or slapped on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the past 12 months.

“Teen dating violence is too common,” says Kamry Williams, a Start Strong Atlanta Youth Leader and Junior at Maynard Jackson High School. “I’ve had friends get caught up in abusive relationships and not know how to get out. On KeepItStrongATL.org, I can talk with my peers about how dating violence is out there, it’s real, and it doesn’t have to happen to them.”

Over 15 Start Strong Atlanta Youth Leaders, who also work at Grady Health System’s Teen Services Program, helped design www.KeepItStrongATL.org and provide a large portion of the site’s content.

The site was designed to reach teens where they go — social networking sites. Pew Research reports that as of 2010, 73 percent of teens 12 to 17 years old belong to at least one social networking site. Those same teens report that 93 percent of their time online is spent on a social networking site. In addition, research suggests that teens prefer websites where they generate and control the content.

“We often find that teens are the best experts in what is going on in their lives,” says Marie Mitchell, Start Strong Atlanta Project Director at the Jane Fonda Center. “Listening to their voices and giving them a safe space to reflect on this issue is so important. If we can ensure that relationships during the formative years are filled with respect, communication and affection and are free from violence, bullying and coercion, we may create the foundation for lifelong healthy relationships.”

The Jane Fonda Center, along with its primary partners, Atlanta Public Schools and Grady Memorial Hospital’s Teen Services Program, developed a comprehensive plan for this four-year initiative focused on four core strategies: education, community engagement, policy change and cutting-edge social marketing to empower young people to support healthy relationships.

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The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences:
Blog: http://emoryhealthblog.com
Twitter: @emoryhealthsci
Web: http://emoryhealthsciences.org

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