PROVIDENCE – A web gaming and video-based study being done at Rhode Island Hospital on teen dating violence has obtained $791,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The study is the only one of its kind being funded by the department and was announced in a joint statement by the four members of the Rhode Island Congressional delegation: Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline.
Funding for the program was obtained through the reauthorization of the Violence Against Woman Act. Whitehouse wrote a provision in the legislation to fund the study.
“I am happy to see federal funding coming to Rhode Island to research this serious problem,” Whitehouse said in the release.
Rhode Island Hospital researchers, led by Christie Rizzo, will examine the effectiveness of web-based games and videos in limiting aggressiveness among 8th grade boys. Test subjects will be drawn from the greater Providence area.
Rizzo, in an interview, said that her own research and efforts in the subject of dating violence prevention had previously focused on adolescent girls, and that the new study will come at the issue from a different angle.
“One of the things I’ve recognized is that there’s not enough out there for adolescent boys,” Rizzo said. “We need to create more for adolescent boys, from anger management to general relationship skills to how you manage jealousy in a relationship.”
The amount of relationship activity among adolescents online has presented particular challenges, Rizzo said.
“When you see on a social networking page that your partner is talking with someone else, how do you manage that?” she said.
The goal of using web-based video games, Rizzo said, is to deal with reticence around the issues of teen dating violence.
“The big thing is that we’re trying to engage teenage boys,” Rizzo said. “There’s a lot of curricula that’s face-to-face, and they’re not interested. This is teaching them how to deal with jealousy and modern technology.”
Rizzo, whose affiliations include both Northeastern University and Brown, has been a local authority on teen dating violence in Providence for the past several years.
A Colorado-based technology company, Klein Buendel, will partner with Rizzo and her research team to develop the games and videos used.
The entire enterprise is designed to facilitate parental involvement in young teens’ dating lives, Rizzo said.
“Part of the goal of this project is to really involve parents in the process and hopefully open a dialogue between parents and kids about healthy relationships and how to manage relationships,” Rizzo said. “We’re hoping that that dialogue will create tools for how to manage feelings and how to properly deal with that stuff.”
Langevin said that the program was timely and that addressing the issue among adolescent boys who were only in the 8th grade made sense.
“By focusing on young men and addressing these violent behaviors early on, this program aims to stop the cycle of abuse before it starts,” Langevin said in the release.