11 Rules for Texting with Teens

Texting contract for you and your teens

Maybe you cringe when you see your tween or teen working the keyboard of her cell phone. It seems like she is in constant motion. 

Or maybe you're in awe that your son is a master of multi-tasking -- tcarrying on a conversation with you, actually responding appropriately to what you are asking or discussing, while his fingers furiously carry on a text conversation with a friend.

Of course, nothing is more frustrating or even annoying than when he or she is texting during a family dinner or when you are in the midst of an important conversation that requires undivided attention. 

As with most things, however, there are pros and cons to communicating through texting. As a parent, you may feel well versed in the downside of this technological advance, especially if your thumbs are not nearly as adept to the activity as your tweens and teens. There is an upside to texting. It isn’t until you resign yourself to engaging in this seemingly mindless activity that you can really appreciate the benefits.

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Texting can keep you connected to your kids in a way that was unthinkable a mere decade or two ago. Communication is the key to a strong bond between you and your kids. Texting provides a way to keep connected and in the know.  A simple ‘hello’ text from your tween or teen can really turn your day around. You need to be mindful and wary however, how you perceive and respond to his messages can make a big difference.

In order to ensure that you make the best texting connection with your tweens and teens, here is a quick list of what to do and what to avoid when it comes to texting and teens.

DO respond when possible if he send you a text. He is reaching out and your response is validating.

DON'T respond if you are unable to engage with her at the moment.  If ,for example, you are in a meeting or in the midst of a task or chore you need to complete, she will get the hint that you are not available.

DO keep responses short and sweet. If the text is too long he probably won’t read it anyway.

DON'T use texting in lieu of carrying on a conversation, especially regarding more important concerns or issues.

DON'T try to discipline or teach through a text. What you are trying to say  is bound to get lost in translation.

DO remember that neutral messages are often misperceived as angry or annoyed. So if you have to re-direct use positive language and symbols (e.g. happy faces, hearts, etc.) to do so.

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DON'T text her at times you know she is not available. Hold off while she is in class or somewhere else where her attention and focus is necessary. If she texts you first, do not respond. Refrain from texting with a question such as ,"Aren’t you in class?” 

DON'T over-text him. This is especially important if your teen is away at college. Too much texting may be interpreted as intrusive and can become annoying. A simple "Hey there!" now and again is fine. Let it go, however, if she doesn’t text you right back. It probably means she is not available.

DO text to provide reassurance.  Encourage your teen with something like "Good luck on your test! I know you studied hard!”. Text with quick reminders, like, "Don’t forget to hand in the money for the school trip.” This is especially helpful if your tween or teen has a lot going on in his life. He may be slightly annoyed to receive the text. but in the end it can be very helpful. Besides, it will give you some piece of mind.

DO discuss texting terms with her. Let her know, for example, that if you don’t text right back it is because you are not available. Also let her know that you will not respond when you believe she is in class or unavailable. Tell her to let you know if there has been a change in her schedule when she texts -- if her class has been cancelled or she will be home early.

DO set up a texting code word which tells you all is well and another code word which signifies your assistance is needed. If your tween is going to the mall with a friend, have her text you a specific code word every half-hour or hour. This tells you she is doing fine. If he is going to a party and wants or needs to be picked up immediately, a pre-ranged "SOS" code word clearly sends you the message that your helped is requested.

Texting can be a great way to build on the bond with your tweens and teens. It can’t take the place of conversation, but it can certainly help you connect and communicate with your tweens and teens.


What are your texting rules with your tween or teen?

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