SPECIAL REPORT: How to Break Up 101

Published: Nov. 9, 2012 at 9:08 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 12, 2012 at 5:47 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The headlines are everywhere: young love gone horribly wrong, teen dating turned deadly.

In fact, in a recent federal survey, 10% of students reported being physically hurt by their boyfriend of 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.

"It's either text or it's either Facebook and everyone sees it and it's just drama all over."

"The challenge of text breakups is there's a character limit," said Casey Corcoran, Program Director of Futures Without Violence. "You can only say so much. You don't get tone of voice, you don't get body language."

Corcoran said the problem is so widespread that teenagers need to be taught how to stay safe when relationships end.

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

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

The "Break-Up Summit," part of the Start Strong Initiative now being taught on campuses nationwide, offers simple strategies to help teens break up respectfully.

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

Daley helps teach the "Break-Up Summit" and says in this day and age educators have to add a fourth "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."

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

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

It also suggests a technology time-out.

"Posting something online is not the best decision. 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're done with respect they'll hurt a lot less.

"It's really great to actually have a healthy way to breakup with a person. Even if you're not friends, everything's just neutral. So that person can move on."

While the program does advocate face-to-face breakups for most relationships, proponents stress that an abusive relationship should be ended remotely.

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