When you read about teens and texting, it’s often about how they’re sexting and can’t look up long enough to have a face-to-face conversation.
But a recent Pew report suggests they’re pretty grown up when it comes to breakups. The study, “Teens, Technology and Romantic Relationships,” found that, on a scale of 1 to 10, teens think breaking up in person is the best way, followed by phone call and then text message.
Among teens with relationship experience, 62 percent have broken up with someone in person, the Pew researchers found, and 47 percent have endured an in-person breakup. Twenty-seven percent have broken up with someone over text and 31 percent have been dumped that way — about as common as breaking up over the phone. Then comes social media, with 18 percent of teens with dating experience having been dumped or dumping someone by sending a private social media message, changing their relationship status on Facebook or posting a status update.
These rates are higher than what Pew has found in studies of adults’ digital breakups, but not by much. For example, a 2013 Pew report found that 22 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds had broken up with someone by email, text or online message, while 28 percent had been dumped in those ways.
Amanda Lenhart, lead researcher on the 2015 Pew report, says teens might prefer to break up in person because, at that age, their parents are still helping them set the parameters for what to expect in relationships. And their parents didn’t have texting or social media as breakup options when they were teenagers.
Lenhart also noted that, since most teens are meeting in person and rarely online, they feel more compelled to break up in person. “It makes more sense because you’ll continue to be in community with that person,” she says, if you met at school or have mutual friends.
For adults meeting online, it’s easier to disappear when it doesn’t work out. Perhaps the “olds” could learn a thing or two from how the young fall in and out of love.