Adolescents’ perceptions of digital media’s potential to elicit jealousy, conflict and monitoring behaviors within romantic relationships

Joris Van Ouytsel, Michel Walrave, Koen Ponnet, An Sofie Willems, Melissa Van Dam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Understanding the role of digital media in adolescents’ romantic relationships is essential to the prevention of digital dating violence. This study focuses on adolescents’ perceptions of the impact of digital media on jealousy, conflict, and control within their romantic relationships. Twelve focus group interviews were conducted, among 55 secondary school students (ngirls = 28; 51% girls) between the ages of 15 and 18 years (Mage = 16.60 years; SDage = 1.21), in the Dutch-speaking community of Belgium. The respondents identified several sources of jealousy within their romantic relationships, such as online pictures of the romantic partner with others and online messaging with others. Adolescents identified several ways in which romantic partners would react when experiencing feelings of jealousy, such as contacting the person they saw as a threat or looking up the other person’s social media profiles. Along with feelings of jealousy, respondents described several monitoring behaviors, such as reading each other’s e-mails or accessing each other’s social media accounts. Adolescents also articulated several ways that they curated their social media to avoid conflict and jealousy within their romantic relationships. For instance, they adapted their social media behavior by avoiding the posting of certain pictures, or by ceasing to comment on certain content of others. The discussion section includes suggestions for future research and implications for practice, such as the need to incorporate information about e-safety into sexual and relational education and the need to have discussions with adolescents, about healthy boundaries for communication within their friendships and romantic relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Cyber dating abuse
  • Digital media
  • Jealousy
  • Monitoring behaviors
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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