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Help your teen meet, date and break-up

From emojis to saying goodbye to a relationship with a text message, digital technology plays an important role in how teens seek out, maintain and end relationships.  As a parent, when I was growing up most of my experiences with dating happened in person: at school, on the bus, at the movies or football games. The in-person conversations and naturally developing chemistry is no longer the norm in the modern age.

It’s interesting what you can hear while waiting in line for a slice of pizza at Sbarro in the mall. “I just met a girl on Facebook, like, messaged her and then met her in person. That was all. I just met her, ” said a teenaged boy to his friend.

Communication has become a friend request

The Pew Research Center conducted focus groups with teens across the United Stated to find out about their personal experiences with social media and romantic relationships.

One in four teens have dated or hooked up with something they initially encountered online. But those with some dating experience say they have never dated someone they first met online.

Texting and chatting online allow teens to communicate while they’re busy with other things. While a lot of communication is nonverbal it’s important to stress healthy communication skills to your teen. These skills are not only helpful with friendships but will pay dividends later in the job search and interview.

The best friend is no longer the go-between for scoping out the potential

Many teens say that social media is an information-gathering tool that helps them find out all sorts of information about a potential partner. In today’s world of technology teens will flirt online by liking photos or posting a comment on a social media profile. And let’s not forget there are unwritten rules that carry a deeper meaning – the choice of emoji to the spelling of a word.

Teens communicate with their romantic partners through text every day. Danah Boyd, co-author of the MacArthur-funded research book , Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out, says that research in this field shows that this media actually reinforces local connections. “Most young people interact with people they know in their everyday environments,” she says.

Digitally Enhanced Relationship Drama

In the pre-internet days, breaking up typically involved a relatively predictable conversation, even if that conversation was emotionally messy.   Not too many years I laughed at Carrie Bradshaw on Sex in the City when she experienced a Post-It Note breakup.

Well, it’s kind of the same in the digital world.  Digital breakups tend to play our on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media venues.  Twenty-seven percent of teens have broken up with someone via text message, and 31 percent have been broken up with in this way.

But all is not lost. Even as text messaging and social media play a role, teens feel strongly that an in-person conversation – at a worst, a phone call – is the most socially acceptable way to break up with someone. Most teens in the Pew research agreed that breaking up with a partner over text messaging or social media illustrated a lack of maturity on the part of the person who is ending the relationship.

Is it Happily Ever After?

Most teens daters will untag or delete photos of themselves and a past partner on social media. In addition, teens will unfriend or block on social media someone they used to be in a relationship with. And 63 percent of teen daters agree that social media allows people to support them when a relationship ends.

Our teens are really that much different from teens of past generations. Just like we once were, they’re confused about how to deal with the opposite sex.  Parents really can harness the best of today’s and yesterday’s customs.  We can encourage and require that we meet each “friend” face-to-face.

Teens need someone to listen to them, love them and walk them through the process of establishing healthy relationships.

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