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Parenting the Age of Texting: What are the Rules?

Helping your child navigate the world of texting and appropriate messaging means only one thing; you’re going to have to learn about the world of texting and appropriate messaging. You have your own rules about your personal style of texting and phone use, but how does that translate to behavior you expect from your kids? Do this experiment to find out.

For one week, notice the number of times you reach for your phone. No judging, just noticing. Do you check facebook at a stoplight? When you are with your kids at the park are you taking the opportunity to continue a texting conversation with a friend? Are you able to put your phone out of reach at the dinner table? After one week taking note of your own phone patterns, you should be ready to put some reasonable rules in place for your kids.

In case you’re not up to that, or you just need something right now, here are a few ideas (along with the explanations behind them) to get you started.

  1. Mom and dad have the password to your phone. They may choose never to use it, but they must have it. Why? Kids are compulsive and that is normal. Texting as a means of shooting off communication that is not well thought out is tempting for adults and teens alike. Sharing the password with mom or dad gives the message that parents will keep you safe, even if it makes you mad.
  2. If you must answer a text around other people or family members, announce in a normal speaking voice, “I have a text; do you mind if I answer this?” Why? Breaking eye contact to answer a text during a conversation with a person physically present gives the message “you don’t matter” to the physically present person. Even if conversation is not directed at the teen (for example at the dinner table) the teen is expected to be a potential part of the conversation, not partially present.
  3. Of course no texting and driving! But don’t forget:
    1. No texting and walking
    2. No texting and walking in a crosswalk
    3. No texting and walking down stairs
    4. You get the picture

Why?  The potential for injury and victimization. Subjects asked to walk across a crowded plaza while texting stopped noticing their surroundings. How bad was it? They missed a clown on a unicycle and a person dressed in a gorilla suit. Imagine how a mugger or rapist might get missed by a distracted texter.

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