5 Ways to Help Your Teen Navigate Social Media During a Breakup

Upset teen girl with phone in her hand

There is no doubt that breaking up is hard to do. But add the Internet, social media, and smartphones into the picture and it can become even harder—and possibly more painful. Sure, technology has a way of making it easier to communicate with other people, but it also can be very impersonal.

And when it is used during and after a breakup it can cause all sorts of issues, both for the one being dumped and the one doing the dumping. Consequently, when your teen is navigating their first breakup, it is important that you give them some guidelines on how to handle social media, smartphones, and the Internet.

Many teens are so accustomed to doing everything through texts, emails and social media, they do not realize that relationship issues are something that should still be handled offline. Doing so may be a little uncomfortable and awkward at first, but in the end it will save them a lot of heartache and grief. Here are some technology guidelines you should go over with your teen when they are going through a breakup.

Limit Social Media

Social media is a dangerous tool when your teen is feeling hurt and rejected. For instance, they may feel tempted to check their ex's social media accounts to see what they're doing and how they're spending their time. But this is rarely a good idea. What's more, as tempting as it might be to try to find out if an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend is dating someone new, tell your teen that knowing this answer is not going to make them feel better.

Additionally, resorting to cyberstalking someone is time consuming and counterproductive. Remember, getting over a broken heart is a lot like getting over the flu. Your teen needs plenty of rest, needs to be eating right, exercising, and taking it easy, along with finding other things to do to help mend their broken heart. This is not the time to stop sleeping or to spend large amounts of time online. If anything, encourage your teen to put down the cell phone and disconnect for awhile.

Aside from the fact that social media is both a time-stealer and a sleep-stealer, scanning through everyone else's highlight reel on social media can cause your teen to feel worse about their situation. This is especially true if they assume everyone else's life is going well while their own life stinks.

During the highly emotional times in your teen's life, it's always a good idea to limit social media use. It rarely will make your child feel better, and it often keeps them stuck in a rut.

Cut Off Contact

The temptation to call, text, FaceTime, IM, Skype or reach out to an ex can seem overwhelming right after a breakup, especially if your teen spent the majority of their time with the significant other. There is a very real void where their significant other used to be. But it is never healthy for your teen to reach out to an ex after a breakup regardless of whether they were the one to break up or not.

Reaching out keeps your teen from finding closure and moving on. It also opens the door for more pain, especially if the person on the receiving end becomes annoyed and says or does something mean.

Remind your teen to respect their ex's space. Texting long messages about how hurt they are or asking for reasons why it didn't work out will only prolong the pain and keep them stuck in an unhealthy place. 

What's more, messages of desperation, whether they are through voicemail, text message or FaceTime, can be shared with other people. This can cause your teen to become the source of gossip and rumors.

Additionally, the messages could be used to shame or cyberbully your teen as well. While it is hard not to talk to someone that your teen talked to every day, it needs to be done. They will feel better about themself and heal faster if they cut off all contact.

Keep Personal Feelings Offline

It is very common for teens to tweet or post about how much their heart hurts with quotes and memes. Even though they may never mention their ex in the post, everyone who knows them knows who the post is about. Remind your teen that their subtle tweets and posts are not so subtle. What's more, they could become fodder for cyberbullying, gossip, and other mean behaviors.

Unfortunately, there are some teens that delight in seeing another person miserable and will look for ways to exploit that. Be sure your teen knows that posting quotes about heartbreak online may feel cathartic, but the rest of the world may use it against them. Instead, buy your teen a journal and encourage them to write down their feelings someplace safe and private.

If your teen feels like they need others to know how they're feeling, encourage them to talk with you or a few of their safe friends. Healthy friendships are needed most right now.

And sharing one's heart with such a large audience does not do much to help the healing process, especially if fake friends and toxic people use it to their advantage.

Avoid Seeking Revenge Online

After a breakup a lot of teens are naturally upset, angry, and hurt. And while these feelings are very normal, it is important that your teen channel these feelings in a healthy way. Too many times, when faced with the pain of a breakup teens will seek revenge. They take to Instagram, Twitter or SnapChat and blast their ex by sharing every hurtful thing they have ever done.

Other times, teens are less direct and will engage in subtweeting or vague booking to share their disappointment and anger. The problem is everyone knows who their posts are about—including the ex. And this rarely works out in your teen's favor. Even if the ex was really mean to your teen, it is never a good idea to share these details online.

Finally, some teens even will spread rumors or gossip about an ex. They also may plot revenge, cyberbully, and even engage in slut shaming to try to feel better about their situation. But the thing is, revenge never makes a person feel better about their circumstances.

Break Up in Person

With the exception of abusive dating relationships, it is always recommended to break up with someone face to face. If your teen has dated someone for any length of time, it is common courtesy to tell the person in person that the relationship is ending.

Coach your child on how to handle the breakup with tact, empathy, and respect. It is important that your teen's significant other has an opportunity to ask questions and to find closure. However, caution your teen that sometimes breakups can go very wrong and the other person can become angry, belligerent, or even violent.

If this happens, make sure your teen knows they are not required to stay and endure the abuse. They should find a safe way to exit and diffuse the situation before it escalates. If your teen suspects their significant other may not handle the breakup well, encourage them to choose a semi-private area like a quiet corner of a coffee shop or in a quiet room of your house, like your living room or family room.

You should be home but in another part of the house. This allows your teen a bit of safety in the situation while also offering the person being dumped some privacy. Plus, your home is a safe zone for your teen and it is less likely something could wrong.

If your teen is in a controlling or abusive relationship, it is important that you guide them on how to breakup safely. Make sure your teen has a safety plan in place and has thought about how to handle the situation should the person refuse to take no for an answer.

An abusive relationship is the one situation where it's not only acceptable but encouraged to break up through a text message or a voicemail.

A Word From Verywell

While breaking up can be uncomfortable and maybe even hurtful for your teen, the improper use of social media after the breakup can make things worse. Coach your teen on how to handle a breakup and use social media responsibly in the process. They should avoid posting about the breakup and should refrain from checking their ex's social media pages, especially in the early stages of the breakup process.

Additionally, if your teen is the one initiating the breakup, they should do so in person. Texting or messaging someone that a relationship is over is not advised unless the relationship is abusive or has the potential to become dangerous. Then, a text is all that is required. Just be sure you have a safety plan in place in case it does not go well. Teens are at an increased risk for harm when breaking up with someone who is abusive or controlling.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.