Text Messaging: Concerns for the Adolescent

text messagingI’ve been thinking about text messaging and whether parents are concerned about their child’s use of this social media. My own children are too young for this and don’t have cell phones; however, as a middle school teacher, I’ve been seeing how widespread texting has become, and I have concerns.

A parent of one of my students was recently telling me about her 12 year old son receiving “interesting” text messages from a female classmate; another friend related how her 7th grader regularly receives dozens of texts a day up to 11 p.m. from classmates and friends of both sexes.

Is texting just akin to the talking on the phone that we parents engaged in as young adolescents? Some things to consider:

Texting gives your child a privacy in conversation that he or she may not be ready for, and may be inappropriate.

Texting allows for an immediacy in written conversation that opens the door to impulsive, potentially hurtful words.

Texting removes the inhibitions of face-to-face or even over the phone conversations, and may result in inappropriate messages.

Text messaging is a simple idea, but despite its extreme brevity is really a complex form of communication, simply for the lack of context (i.e., emotion, expression, descriptive words) it provides for any texting conversation.

Some suggestions for adolescents regarding text-messaging:

1. Consider the worst possible interpretation your words could have, or the worst possible situation that could result from them. Know that text messages, especially abbreviations, can be unclear or ambiguous, and not read how you intended.  

2. Don’t have extended conversations via text messaging. This opens the door for every sort of problem, like miscommunication, misunderstanding, and hurt feelings.

3. Don’t be impulsive. Be mindful of your words. (This is a great rule of thumb for any kind of communication.) Text-messaging has a great potential to be a cyber-bullying tool. Or gossip tool. Or flirtation device. Or (fill in the blank).

4. Use texts to communicate information or facts, not feelings. If it’s getting too personal or intimate, stop. Personalize it with a phone call or in person, and if that thought makes you uncomfortable, you shouldn’t be texting this message.

Parents, consider putting strict time/place/person limitations on your child’s text-messaging, such as “no texting after 7 p.m,” “no texting in your bedroom,” or “no texting with members of the opposite sex.” Or simply, “no texting.”

Dear reader, what do you think of text-messaging among young adolescents? Are you a parent with experience in this area? Do you feel helpless at the hands of modern social media? What rules have you instituted in your household?

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16 Responses to Text Messaging: Concerns for the Adolescent

  1. Heather says:

    I am totally useless here–we all have cell phones (the kids share one since we don’t have a house phone) but we have all texting turned off. I can’t imagine using it–I hate trying to type on the tiny keys, and my kids hate doing it as well.

  2. Kathleen says:

    My oldest is 12 and has no cellphone. I don’t think there is any need for him to have one. He’s not interested at this point but I suppose we will have to discuss it at some time. I definitely think when it is time we will all sit down together and discuss not only etiquette but also set limits. I have to admit I feel a little lost when it comes to all this new techno stuff that’s bombarding us!

  3. Kids use texting as a way to “cyberbully”. Cyber bullying is something new to this generation of parents. It used to be that kids were at least safe in their own home, but now they can be victimized right in their own playroom or bedroom through the use of the internet and texting. In fact, the role that technology plays in our kids’ lives is something no other group of parents has had to deal with. It’s the “smoking, drugs and alcohol” of today! The best way to keep your kids safe from cyber bullies is to teach them moderation when it comes to the use of the internet. Simply, the less time a kid spends on the internet the less likely he/she will find trouble there. This is exactly why it is important to teach kids, from an early age, how to use the internet in moderation so that technology doesn’t end up taking over their lives. We have a simple yet effective tool specifically designed for that. Check it out at http://www.prioritypatrol.com .

  4. Jen says:

    Heather, I agree on the dislike of typing on tiny keys!

    Kathleen, I like your plan to sit down and discuss etiquette and limitations when the time comes. I’ve heard many parents express that “lost” feeling when it comes to the new technology and social media, but how critical it is to get a handle on it and not let your child run wild in this area!

    Ellen, thank you for the informative comment and the link!

  5. Wickle says:

    I don’t understand why texting is so popular … I hate those keys!

    My kids (1, 10, 12, and unborn) don’t use texting at all at this point. My intent is to treat it like the phone — time limits, personal boundaries, and nothing is secret. If it’s used, there will be a parent present, and anything is subject to review.

    Generally, I figure that as long as kids are kids, there’s nothing they need to say to anyone that they can’t say in the presence of a parent, so there’s no need for them to take a phone into a private room to talk.

    I wouldn’t mind if these people stop inventing new communication tools, by the way.

  6. tipper says:

    Not an issue for my girls yet-but something I have thought about. Neat post.

  7. Jen says:

    Wickle, great thoughts! We should stop and remember that these are KIDS who need boundaries. For their own health and safety.

    “I wouldn’t mind if these people stop inventing new communication tools, by the way.” haha, me too.

    Tipper, thank you for stopping by!

  8. It scares me just to think that my daughter might be asking for a phone a few years from now. I have seen how a cellphone can be so destructive. One of my siblings got a cellphone at a very young age (13?) and fails her subjects now (she’s in college) because of it. How can anyone concentrate on his/her studies if there is a cellphone near him/her?

    Yeah, my parents imposed no texting policies but her friends kept on buzzing her. She is not dumb with regards to her academic studies, it’s really the cellphone’s fault in my opinion!

    I grew up and graduated college without a cellphone (along with other people for sure). Can’t kids really live without one?

  9. Gina says:

    I have 5 boys, the oldest is 16 and is the only one with a cell phone. He had unlimited texting for one year age 15-turning 16 and then we had had enough! Enter girlfriend in the fall and all he did was text with her all day long. Starting from the moment he woke up, and after school til 9 at night when we take his phone. It was ridiculous. We began to refer to it as his 5th appendage. He was distracted all the time, and not communicative with the rest of the family. He has a lot of extra things going on in his life. Texting is a distraction from real life! If you have something to say to someone- call them. The contant back and forth of “what?” “Ok” “Who knows” is ridiculous and a waste of time and a major major distraction for teens. This whole craze, where kids average over 10,000 texts per month will have serious repurcussions in the future. People are getting so lazy they can’t even speak with their voices anymore. None of my kids will ever have texting again until they move out of my house! I hated it for them. Thanks for listening!

  10. Dad says:

    This is a big deal right now in our household. Our 12 year old boy has a cell phone – and while I was against it initially – my wife and I love the added sense of security being able to speak to him and locate him with a phone call.

    A large number of his peers have texting – he does not. I don’t think the parents realize the time consumed with texting by their kids. I hate to sound judgmental – but it’s beyond sad. His best friend, I believe, would cry if texting were taken off his phone. When he’s at our house – he’s constantly texting.

    The interesting observation is that peer groups are forming out of this. A classic case of haves and have nots. More often than not my son is not being included purely as a result of this. It’s sad, I don’t know the answer – but I’ve told him he needs to widen his circle of friends.

  11. Lauren says:

    I am 15 and I am very concerned about the issues text messaging poses for my generation. I see my friends using texting during class to talk to people in other classes, even as a way to cheat. It is impossible to spend time with some of my friends because they text constantly. Many relationships now begin through texting and there is no need for face to face conversation. I am also shocked by the vulgar jokes and rumors that are passed through texting. I don’t text and I never intend to.

  12. Mom says:

    My experience with my children and texting is that it allows the younger kids (under 17) to have inappropriate discussions with limited words. These children already do not have the skills or tools to communicate face to face yet they pour their souls out with a few letters. It opens easy access to drugs and sneaking out of the house or communicating to one friend through another friend. There is no way to monitor what is being said, other than what numbers have been called/text. However, texting is nice when kids learn to drive, are in sports and begin to work…but the phone works too.

  13. Bonnie says:

    We are new to this experience. My daughter is 13 and in the 7th grade. She has always been a great kid with extremely high grades and excelling in athletics. It was athletics that led us to consider getting a cell phone. At our school, practice is either before or after school (there is no absolute schedule for this) and they can return from games as late as 10:30pm. We live 7 miles from the school and so were concerned about knowing when we needed to pick her up. Most of her friends have cell phones with my daughter being one of the last to get one and on the surface, it looked beneficial. We were tossed on whether or not to get texting but thought it may be a useful tool for being able to get ahold of her quickly; plus, we thought it wouldn’t be that bad if she could text her friends. We opted for unlimited texting so we would avoid any horrendous charges; however, we did limit how often she could text. We learned a lesson fast. Other limits we put on the cell phone use were no talking or texting at school and no deleting texts until we went through them. This took our good kid and turned her into a child that readily lies and deceives. The first thing we caught was her texting at school. We grounded her from the phone for a few days which seemed to eliminate that problem, although, we really have no absolute way of knowing. We didn’t want to take the phone away from school because the entire reason for getting it was to communicate with her while at school activities. Next, the boys happened. I absolutely agree that texting removes some essential inhibition and social structuring. My daughter started deleting texts here and there hoping we wouldn’t find traces of them. I caught her texting when she wasn’t suppose to so I took the phone. I then read the texts. A boy (her boyfriend) was telling her how sexy she was to him at that moment and such. First, 13 year olds do not need to be saying these types of things; second, it was in a tone that I wouldn’t have expected from this age of children. Texting boys at all was taken away at that point, as well as, the phone was taken for a week. Since then my husband and I have managed to get ahold of the phone before she could delete all the messages. The type of talk happening between these children is absolutely inappropriate. The type of language they use and the extent of talking about sex and related topics is shocking. It isn’t only with the boys. My daughter’s best friends that I thought were great kids as well, are nonchalantly saying things that I would be shocked to hear from an adult in such away. We are taking the phone away indefinately. It is under contract for two years and going to cost us plenty for no use. My daughter will be the only kid in her circle of friends without a phone. There is a phenomenon of ousting that is occuring based on having a cell phone or not. I do not want to intentionally make my child a social outcast, but if being in the social “in-group” means potentially damaging my child by allowing such inappropriate behavior, then she doesn’t need to be in that group. I am truly worried because I know the other kids’s parents are not checking text messages or monitorring what their kids’s are doing on their phones. Several of them know it is a status symbol and would be appalled at me if I suggested that their kids’s may be behaving in such a way. I know children aren’t going to be perfect and will test their boundaries, but, this form of communication is not only perfect for nurturing this inappropriateness, it is so new, parents aren’t setting up boundaries at all. These kids aren’t being told that they are behaving inappropriate. I am sure they realize that they would be in trouble if their parents read what they are writing, but at this point they don’t know exactly why or what implications and consequences may occur. We are actually broken hearted that our daughter lied so easily to our faces when we asked if she has been talking to boys again, if she had erased any texts, or if we would be upset with any texts she had written. In fact, when I came home today, my daughter was laying down sleeping, or so I thought. When we got ahold of her phone later, I found that she was actually covering up the fact that she had been taking pictures of her legs (with very short shorts on) because her friends were having a sexy legs contest with a boy on texting. The rules were that she wasn’t allowed to text without us home. She quickly hid the fact that she was texting by pretending to be asleep because she knew I would take the phone and discover what she was up to if I had known she had broken the rules. She broke the rules later which is how I obtainted the phone for this final time. My husband and I have alerted the other children’s parents that their children have potentially been inappropriate with their phones. I am not sure what type of response we will get from them. This is a very scary issue that is quickly going to affect everyone and their children. Information on the potential dangers needs to be put out there; plus, research needs to start taking place on the social ramifications of this new technology. I do think that even if you think your children are the best kids in the world, if you are going to let them have cell phones, monitor every single thing they do on it.

  14. Jen says:

    Thank you, dear readers, for your personal stories on this issue of adolescent texting!! Your stories will hopefully prevent some other tragedies.

    Bonnie, way to go on staying on top of the monitoring and having a severe consequence (no more phone). There are so many different issues wrapped up in this topic, and I agree, more research needs to be done, and basically, parents need to BE AWARE.

    Lauren, it was great to hear from a young person who sees the dangers and is willing to go against the flow.

  15. Susie says:

    I caught my daughter talking to someone. I was severily pissed. But all I could think of was me at this age. So I got in touch with his parents, & we had a clear understanding.

    Or so I thought. I was watching a video on her phone and the text came through. It was from him. He said, ” Baby, I want to be with you, and every thought of us not together hurts me. I just wish that we could sleep together again. By the way; Pretty V*****.”

    I felt betrayed. Now, she doesn’t have her phone, nor a Facebook. And they are not dating.

  16. Debbie says:

    I have had a similar experience to Bonnie’s. My daughter is in eighth grade – great kid, a nice group of friends (I know and socialize with the parents), small school. The kids are becoming young adults and naturally have attractions to each other and are somewhat obsessed with their looks and the social scene. I don’t have a problem with that, but I do think these young teens still need guidance and some limits so they can learn what is acceptable. Unfortunately, talking to them might not be enough to keep them from being impulsive and there is no way to know what they are chatting about on Facebook and texting on their email because they will delete it. I’m not going the spyware route, but I have removed texting and taken away facebook. Of course, we continue to talk about the issues – and at some point I think she will be mature enough to allow for more priveledges.

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