I’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?