The Boston Public Health Commission hosted Break-Up Summit 3.0 today, bringing together more than 250 young people and youth-serving organizations from the Boston area to discuss cheating, break-ups, and how online interactions have blurred and complicated the definitions of cheating.

“Most young people engage in multiple relationships throughout their teenage years, developing their relationship skills through trial and error. Cheating has become so normalized in our culture that cheating or being cheated on is in many cases part of that experience,” said Nicole Daley, director of the Commission’s Start Strong Boston initiative, which organized the event in partnership with Simmons College. “The consequences of cheating can have ramifications for teens’ future relationships, including loss of trust, lower self-esteem, and inability to engage in the next relationship effectively. By engaging teens in a dialogue on these issues, we can help them to handle situations in a healthier way.”

Talking about healthy break-ups with teens is an important way of preventing cheating and its often painful and dangerous consequences. The summit looked at steps teens can take to increase the likelihood of having a respectful split before cheating occurs, such as talking in person if the relationship did not involve abuse, sharing positives about the person and the reasons you want to end the relationship, and setting boundaries. Teens at the summit discussed strategies to handle potential situations, like ending one relationship respectfully before starting another one.

“Teens need to know that cheating is not okay in any situation. It is important to learn how to tell your partner that you are no longer interested in them and move on before cheating occurs,” said Start Strong Boston peer leader and participant Jaylin Green, age 16.

“We are working with teens to change the lexicon of break-ups. We want them to understand that if a relationship is not working, either person is empowered to leave it respectfully,” said Ms. Daley.

Over the past two years, Start Strong Boston’s Break-Up Summit has become a landmark summer event for Boston’s teens, and received national attention for encouraging youth to talk about issues surrounding break-ups. Past themes have included “Face it, Don’t Facebook It” and portrayals of break-ups in the media. The summit is part of an ongoing effort to help teens build healthy relationship skills, identify what a healthy relationship is, and know when to end them.

“It’s normal for teens – and people of every age – to have relationships that don’t work out,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the Commission’s executive director. “This summit will help give teens tools to discuss and face ways to end relationships in a healthy and safe way, especially if there is cheating involved.”

This year’s summit featured a “Cheating in the Media” mini-documentary depicting teen opinions on cheating and break-ups, as well as a skit by Start Strong Boston peer leaders about confronting cheating. Afternoon workshops covered topics such as Breaking-Up In The Internet Age, the “What Are We?” conversation, It’s Complicated, and Represent Yourself, all designed to help teens engage in healthy break-ups and boundary setting.