12 INVESTIGATES: Social media and modern breakups

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Breaking up is hard to do, and technology can make things worse. Now there's a new initiative to teach teens how to avoid acting on impulse and to break up "the right way."

The headlines are everywhere. Young love gone horribly wrong. Teen dating turned deadly.

In a fact, in a recent survey, 10 percent of students reported being physically hurt by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year.

Breaking up is now a dangerous thing to do and experts say social media is adding fuel to the fire.

"The challenge of text breakups is there's a character limit. You can only say so much. You don't get tone of voice, you don't get body language," said Casey Corcoran.

Corcoran, program director of Futures Without Violence, says the problem is so widespread that teenagers now need to be taught how to stay safe when relationships end.

"There are concrete skills that go into healthy breakups and teens need to know what they are," said Corcoran. "They need to have the opportunity to practice them in a safe environment."

The federal government, high schools, colleges and insurance companies are investing in new teen violence prevention classes from coast to coast.

A class called the "Breakup Summit," part of the Start Strong Initiative, is now being taught on campuses nationwide. It offers simple strategies to help teens break up better.

"We really want them to have the conversations around breakups and really make some decisions for themselves on how they're going to be the most respectful," said Nicole Daley.

Daley helps teach the Breakup Summit. She says, in this day and age, educators have to add a 4th "R" to their lesson plans - Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmetic and Relationships.

"There's a lot on how to deal with the aftermath of a breakup, but there's not a lot that actually shares and talks about how do you want to have the conversation," said Daley.

For example, the program advocates face-to-face breakups in most cases.

"It allows for body language, tone of voice. It allows dialog," said Corcoran.

And it suggest a technology time-out.

"Posting something online is not the best decision," said Corcoran. "It usually serves to escalate the problem rather than de-escalate it. It involves more people than need to be involved, and it can stay online forever."

While breakups will never be fun, if they are done with respect, they will hurt a lot less. The program advocates face-to-face breakup for most relationships, but it stresses that an abusive relationship should not be ended in person.

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