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Teenage Love in Digital Times

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As a dad the last thing I ever want to hear (after "Wi-Fi down") is "I've got a boyfriend".

Well, it happened. A few months ago, my 14-year-old daughter announced that she was in a relationship with a boy.

They had met through Facebook, of course.

They had carried out the relationship through the dazzling array of apps that are available to communicate these days: Face time, Snapchat, FB, IM, Skype, What's App, with the occasional face-to-face (not compulsory).

Call me a Luddite but I remember the good old days. When you fancied someone and wanted to 'go out' with him or her you'd have to actually ask him or her out. i.e. pluck up the courage to talk to them in person. Yes, actually ask them verbally. This often meant you would soon have to meet their parents, or perhaps worse, their brothers and sisters. But things have changed.

I met the boy in question and I rather liked him. So what happened next? Yep, my parental approval equaled the kiss of death.

I may have been the poor lad's downfall. Even in this day and age, parents are not meant to be enthusiastic about boyfriend choices. After a few months, my daughter announced it was time to call it a day.

So not only do parents have to sympathetically listen about the latest spotty oik but also we have to offer digital guidance on the etiquette of dumping online. Pros: this can be done remotely without seeing any tears. Cons: digital footprints.

She wanted to do what was right by him and said she felt she should phone him, but after a battle with nerves decided it would be simplest and best (for him) using a private FB message. The message was perfectly curated and sent off. A few seconds later, a response. "Please no. We can make it work...". My daughter stood firm. Next thing, he updated his status to "No longer in a relationship".

That was easy enough, I thought to myself, and switched on Netflix for Breaking Bad. Little did I realise that something was going on in adolescent 2.0 land.

Facebook went into total meltdown after dumped boyfriend changed his status. A conversation exploded around this post. Some of it helpful, some of it not, with some being downright offensive. By the time the dust had settled, there were 107 comments.... I tried to be encouraging to my daughter and told her she had done the right thing and to ignore the horrible comments being posted. She just looked at me and smiled. "107 comments", she said, "that's amazing...nobody I know has had that many comments before".

Digital dumping: an explainer

  • Face-to-face communication unnecessary
  • He or she who is dumped gets to change their Facebook status first
  • Prepare for all your virtual friends to have an opinion on this breakup
  • Wait at least a week or two before changing your status to 'in a relationship' - 'it's complicated' is better ground
  • Parents don't say: "Perhaps it's time for a break from Facebook?"
  • Parents do say: "There are plenty of plankton in the ocean that is the World Wide Web."

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