Teen dating app provides healthy relationship information

By Jennifer Holloway - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Thu., May. 26, 2011
The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence released a teen dating app for smartphones in April. Photos contributed. - Contributed Photo

The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence recently released td411, a teen dating application for smartphones. According to CCADV Interim Director Karen Jarmoc, the free app has three major components: to provide teens with information on where to get help if they are in unhealthy or violent relationships; to provide guidance on what defines a healthy relationship; and to inform teens how to help a friend experiencing dating violence.

One month into its release, the app has been downloaded in nearly 20 states across the country, according to CCADV evaluation, Jarmoc said.

Though available internationally, the app seems especially important in Connecticut. Jarmoc shared this statistic from a 2007 Connecticut School Health Survey by the Department of Public Health and Education: “High school students in Connecticut(13.4 percent) are significantly more likely than high school students nationally (9.9 percent) to have experienced dating violence in the past year. Connecticut students are more likely than their national counterparts to have been purposely hit, slapped or physically hurt by their boyfriend or girlfriend.”

“In Connecticut, annually there are more than 21,000 hotline calls placed to our 18-member program,” Jarmoc said. “The piece with teens is so vitally important because you want to be able to reach young people early enough and educate them about healthy relationships so as an adult the problem doesn’t continue.”

Tonya Johnson, director of program operations for the Coalition, had the original idea for the teen dating app. “We are consistently looking for new and innovative ways to outreach to people who experience violence,” Johnson said.

She and Jarmoc discussed the importance of reaching teenagers through non-traditional means of communication. “Teenagers talk in a different world than adults sometimes,” Jarmoc said. “They do that quite often through texting or downloading apps or Facebook.”

Johnson shared that, through her own use of a computer and iPod, she began to realize many people, particularly teens, want information quickly and in the most easily accessible way.

“We wanted something that would be innovative, that would outreach in a way that people could connect to in a manner that is safe and secure,” Johnson said.

Jarmoc said the app, which is free, is private. “You can hide it; no one has to know you’ve downloaded it and are looking at the information,” she said.

Macklin Xu, the Coalition’s communications coordinator, created the td411 logo, as well as a website where teens can view the same information or download the app. Throughout the development process, the Coalition held focus groups to ensure the project was headed in the right direction.

“We conducted 20 focus groups at various public high schools in Connecticut,” Xu said. “Questions ranged from their cell phone usage to what they wanted and needed in the app itself.”

Jarmoc, who was appointed interim director of the organization in late April, has spent much of her life working in the area of domestic violence. She worked as executive director for the Network Against Domestic Abuse, and during her term with Enfield’s 59th House District from 2007 to 2011, she was a member of the Speaker’s Task Force on Domestic Violence.

When Gov. Dannel Malloy appointed former CCADV Director Erika Tindall to chair the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, Jarmoc was approached regarding the open position.

“I jumped at the opportunity,” she said. “It’s a chance to do some really meaningful work and impact lives in a positive way.”

An Enfield resident, Jarmoc has 15-year-old twins and an 11-year-old. When asked how they responded to the creation of td411, Jarmoc said their response was similar to many teens. They were intrigued by it and wanted to know how to access it and what it would do.

“That’s the whole point,” Jarmoc said. “Capture teens' attention and interest in a way that is at their level, so it may educate them.”

The td411 app was made possible through a grant the Coalition received in the fall of 2010. To learn more or to download the app, visit www.td411.org or www.ctcadv.org.

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