A new report says that teens are averaging more than 3,000 texts per month. That's six an hour -- even in school. How can you make sure your kids are on their best texting behavior?
Texting is becoming the #1 form of communication
When a Florida teen was arrested for savagely beating an eighth-grade girl, he said that rude text messages she'd sent him sparked his rage. This tragic incident mirrors similar stories in which teens' texting becomes hostile.
Cruelty is nothing new. But the anonymity of texting (in fact, the two teens involved in the Florida incident didn't know each other) fosters an environment where kids can say anything. Kids' actions seem detached from the consequences. And let's face it, teens' judgement and impulse control are not yet fully developed. The hostile exchanges, combined with instantaneous communication, can be very destructive.
Billions of text messages are sent every year from our kids' mobile phones. While most kids use messaging responsibly, it's still a powerful and extremely private communication tool that needs to be used responsibly. (For tips on how to text message, click here.)
Why understanding texting is important
Texting is totally portable, private, and immediate. Kids can send messages to anyone from anywhere at anytime. In other words, they have no boundaries unless we help them to establish some. Almost no research has been done on the impact of immediate communication on our kids' social development.
But the instant gratification factor of getting instantaneous responses from friends has to have some affect. Any parent who has been at the dinner table or on a hike with a child only to have their pockets buzz with an incoming message knows that texts take your kids out of the moment they are in and connect them to distant friends.
Texts can be used to keep friends close, help parents figure out family logistics, and offer a wonderful way to share experiences. But as with any powerful tool, texting can also be used to bully or humiliate people. An embarrassing or upsetting image or video can quickly be transmitted or uploaded to on online video sharing site like YouTube. Sexting is a form of texting where kids Kids have to know that the abusing the privilege of texting will have consequences. And sadly, the use of texting in school cheating is on the rise as answers can be swiftly passed from student to student.
- Carefully evaluate whether or not your kids need texting on their cellphones. Just because other kids in their class have it doesn't mean your child needs it.
- If your kids do text, get an unlimited texting plan. Otherwise the charges mount up swiftly.
- Make rules around when and where. No texting during meals, during class, on family outings. Oh, and turn the phone OFF at night!
- Establish consequences for misuse. Cheating, inappropriate messages, sexual communication. These are all no-go's. Want to make your point? Take a kid's phone away for a week.
- Watch your own behavior. Parents are still kids' playbooks for right and wrong. If you text your kid during class and then turn around and tell that child that he or she can't do that, we send mixed messages.
- If you suspect your kids aren't texting appropriately, you can always look at their messages. Yes, it feels like snooping, but our first job as parents is to ensure our kids use powerful technologies safely and responsibly.