I’m excited that my kids are growing up and taking on new responsibilities. However, the whole cell phone usage and especially texting had me a little freaked out. Both of my kids got gifts for Christmas that allow them to text their friends and after they couldn’t put their devices down all day, I knew I had to put some rules in place. While my kids weren’t doing anything bad, I had heard horror stories from other parents about how texting can get out of control. Hurt feelings, staying up all night texting, grades slipping, and texting at the dinner table were just some of the complaints. Here I was all freaked out about the big S-E-X talk, but the T-E-X-T talk came up first.
There are any number of articles out there on the pros and cons of children texting, like this article in Parents Magazine. I’ve heard parents say that texting is destroying their relationship with their kids and I’ve parents say that they talk more with their kids now through texting than ever before. Regardless, a lot of my Mom friends and even a friend who is a child behavior specialist recommended setting ground rules and boundaries right up front with your kids as the best recipe for texting success.
I attended a great seminar a few years ago called “To Text or to Talk.” In the workshop, the presenter shared some pretty scary statistics and dangers of texting. The biggest takeaway for me though was that you can’t let texting can’t take the place of personal interaction, especially within the family. From my point of view, you can’t have Family Fun and create memories if you aren’t interacting with each other. However, these issues can be addressed by setting up boundaries around texting that are agreed to by both parents and kids. Based on my notes from the workshop, here are some of the tips on how to establish rules for kids and texting that we are implementing in our house.
1. It’s easier to set the ground rules and expectations before they even start texting. It’s always harder to take something away so establish the rules beforehand and have everyone agree. For example, no texting at the dinner table, no texting past 10 p.m., don’t go past a certain number of minutes each month, and if grades start to slip, the texting stops. I’ve seen some parents even draw up a Usage Contract and have their kids sign it. Clearly state the rules and punishment if the rules are broken. No surprises.
2. Texting is a privilege not a right. Parents, it’s OK to ask your kids to earn this privilege, especially if you are footing the bill. Maybe your kids already earn an allowance by performing certain tasks or behaviors. Treat texting the same way.
3. Texting is a great communication tool between parents and kids. Knowing where they are and having them respond instantly with that information is wonderful and helps ease your anxiety and give your kids more independence. Share with your kids how this is an important lifeline between you both, so it can’t be abused.
4. For kids, texting is all about their sense of worth, their identity. They feel connected, they feel cool, and they feel important when texting their friends. Growing up is stressful as they find their identity. Let them have at it, within boundaries.
5. You need to explain textiquette to your kids before they start texting. Emotional conversations, nasty comments, and lengthy conversations should never be handled with text messages. Also, for any social media platform, make sure they understand that once you press send, it’s public domain.
6. Parents, put the phone down. Our kids emulate us. Be a good role model. If we parents are constantly checking email on our phones, checking in with the office or even texting while driving, then we are ignoring our children and demonstrating the exact behavior we are trying to discourage.
How do you handle texting with your kids? Has it helped or hindered communication within your family?