Teens are all about texting. They do it during class, while they’re walking down the street and even when they want to end a relationship.
According to recently released data from the Pew Research Center, 27 percent of American teens have broken up with someone over text message, with 31 percent of teens having been broken up by that method.
In fact, breaking up through text is about as common as breaking up over the phone. According to Pew, 29 percent of teens broke up with someone over the phone and 27 percent had been broken up with by that method.
“I don’t know about other people, but for me, like, I personally hate hurting people and seeing them getting sad because of something I did to hurt them,” one high school girl told Pew for the report. “So for me, I mean, I know it’s not the best thing, but usually over text I just ... I don’t have to see them get so hurt. And usually breaking up is really a hard thing for me. So it just helps me cope with that. I still feel bad about it, but usually texting is just better for me.”
This seems to be the common thought among some teens who spoke with Pew. Emotions — anger, sadness and fear — make them less interested in breaking up in person, they told Pew.
Some teens said in the Pew survey that they didn’t think they could keep their emotions in check during an in-person breakup, while others said they were worried about hurting other people during the breakup.
"I think it’s kind of lesser and slightly disrespectful to do it through text, but I understand why, because it does take a lot to, like, go up to someone and say that you’re breaking up with them and to see their reaction," a high school girl told Pew. "So I guess that’s why lots of people just keep it to text. They don’t have to deal with, like, seeing the person’s face when they break up with them."
Despite those concerns, most teens think breaking up in person is the best method, according to Pew, which is why it’s the most common. Sixty-two percent of teens said they broke up with someone in person and 47 percent said they were broken up with through that method, Pew reported.
After a breakup, most teens will cope through social media. They’ll delete and untag photos of themselves with their former partner, and they’ll share their feelings over that medium, too.
But experts say there are things parents can do to help their teens manage a breakup, especially if it’s one of their first.
Michael Ross, the editor of Focus on the Family’s Breakaway magazine, which is aimed at a teen audience, said that parents should take their teen’s emotions seriously and not treat the first breakup like it isn’t important.
“Understand that your teenage child is dealing with adult-sized emotions. The pain is real, and she needs your sympathy,” Ross wrote.
Ross also suggests parents give their teens time to grieve and cope with their relationship, and be a helpful, listening ear for their child.
“But remember this: When your teen seeks your advice, don’t feel you have to offer the best wisdom or the perfect Bible verses,” Ross wrote. “A child who has been rejected in a relationship — just as someone who has lost a loved one through death or divorce — has usually heard all the right answers from other caring friends and family. But the heart is where it hurts the most. So intellectual answers really won’t help much or bring comfort.”
Parents may also want to encourage their child to find coping strategies other than social media, too, like talking with their friends about their breakup concerns, according to Ellen Braaten, Ph.D., who spoke with Massachusetts General Hospital in 2013.
It may also be good for teens to write about their feelings in a journal, take part in extracurricular activities so they have something else to focus on, and embrace the things they love, Braaten wrote.
“Most importantly, make sure they do things they love doing,” Braaten said. “After a break-up, it can be hard for teens to get excited about the things they loved pre-split, but help them remember what those things are and encourage them to get out and do them — even if they don’t feel like it.”
For more on how to handle a breakup:
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.