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How to Have that T-E-X-T talk With Your Kids

Establish rules and guidelines early with your kids on responsible texting behavior for a happier home.

The holidays brought some big changes to our house. Both of our kids were given gifts that opened the door to that four-letter word: T-E-X-T. Yes, my son was gifted with a texting plan upgrade on his cell phone and my daughter received an iPhone Touch that I thought would see her listening to music non-stop, but instead it has her texting her BFFs, even without a texting plan. 

I'm excited that my kids are growing up and taking on new responsibilities and they were SO excited about texting with their friends. But, 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 talk around the rules of T-E-X-T can be just as important. 

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, I've heard from many moms and even a friend who is a child behavior specialist that setting ground rules and boundaries right up with your kids is the best recipe for texting success.

I attended a great seminar that Katherine Walker from Telion Solutions presented a few years ago called "To Text or to Talk." In the workshop, Katherine shared some pretty scary statistics and dangers of texting. How it actually erodes a child’s ability to build deep relationships with other people, including their family. The biggest takeaway for me is that texting can't take the place of personal interaction 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. Here are some of the highlights of the workshop on how to establish rules for kids and texting. 

 

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 with your kids?

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Sue Kirchner is a family fun coach, blogger, kids party planner, and weekly contributor to Patch.com. Sue and her family fun ideas have been featured on TV, newspapers, magazines, blogs, as well as her own family fun site ChocolateCakeMoments.com.

J January 09, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Excellent article! Not long ago, I went out to dinner with a group of people and some were kids. None of the kids nor the parents lifted an electronic device to do texting or look at email, etc...Now, at a table next to us, 3 kids were texting under the table and 2 adults were constantly poking at something on their phones...It was so obivious to everyone around. At the end of our meal, a compliment was given out that it was great to enjoy everyone's company without the distraction of the electronic devices. It was so funny to see the other table look up and realize what was going on at their table and put their phones away.
Oliver P. McCracken January 09, 2013 at 07:36 PM
A very nice article! You Patchers and Patchettes have quite the newspaper! Mrs. Kirchner, your rules remind me of a similar set I put forth for my own children when the first telegraphing machine was installed in the local railroad depot. 1. No telegraphing on Sundays, nor past sundown on a "School Night." 2. Telegraphing is a privilege, not a right. Unless you are ol' Sam Morse (who I'm sure has a telegraph machine in every room of his mansion), your telegraphing rights can be quickly voided. 3. Telegraphing IS indeed a lifeline. Why, when the White Star Line's unsinkable Titanic slipped between the chilly Atlantic waves, it was a good thing I had telegraphed my family to send a rowboat of Newfoundlanders and their great black dogs to pluck me from the drink. Otherwise I may have met the fate of Jack Dawson and so many others. 4. Children feel rather important when telegraphing their chums. "Dearest friends. STOP. Remember the Maine. STOP. To hell with Spain. STOP. Yours Truly. STOP. O.P. McCracken Jr. STOP" 5. Emotional, nasty, and lengthy disagreements should NOT be handled with the telegraph machine. No, they should be handled with a set of dueling pistols, a pair of fencing sabers, or a well-placed slap to your opponent's cheek with a lambskin glove. 6. Parents, if you are constantly telegraphing business partners, mistresses, &tc., when will you be home to lay down discipline, paddle your youngsters, and make sure the nanny is doing her job properly?

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