20 October 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Have you texted your teen today?

A few years ago I used to play a game to entertain myself during the workday where I would send out a group text to kids while they were in school and see who would be the first to respond.  Usually it took as long as a half hour to get a response, some kids would tell me I got them in trouble, some wouldn’t reply at all.

If I send a text during the school day now I will get an almost immediate response from everyone.  When I go to the high school cafeteria nearly every kid has their phone out texting their friends and updating facebook.

You no doubt saw the news this week that the average teenager sends or receives over 3,000 texts per month, approximately 100 each day (females send an average of 4,050 and males 2,539) .

I’m no alarmist, and I certainly use texting as a ministry tool in several ways.  I think there are a few items regarding texting that are noteworthy.

  • I always ask “what is going on developmentally that might explain this”?  Young people have always communicated in ways that flabbergast adults.  They’re working on building their own community and defining themselves independent of their parents.  Texting is a tool for them to do this.
  • Texting is one of the few unstructured times/means of interaction they have left.  Their schedules are packed, so this is how they “hang out” while fitting in homework, jobs, and sports, etc.
  • In addition to unstructured, this is also one of the few unsupervised spaces left in kid’s lives.  Kids need some space without their parents hovering, it’s good for them.  But that’s not to say you should totally ignore this part of their world.

Some thought on boundaries

  • Many kids text late into the night.  Teenagers need sleep, as much sleep as toddlers.  If late night texting is a problem consider turning off texting at a certain hour through the provider or having a place where the entire family puts their phones at a certain time (i.e. kitchen charging station).
  • Model good phone manners and take every opportunity to teach them to your young person.  Good manners might include no phone use during meals, be responsive to those around you when on your phone, watch where you are going, etc.
  • If your young person does not yet have a phone, be sure to set the boundaries before the phone is given including who pays for what, what might happen if a large bill comes in, etc (the billing seems to be less of an issue these days, everyone must have gone with unlimited plans).
  • Pay attention for yourself and for your teen how having phones and being constantly connected affects the way we are or are not present with those around us.  I recently had to make a rule for myself that when I’m on the floor with Aubrey, the phone stays in my pocket, even if she’s playing on the other side of the room and I’m kind of bored, because it affects how present I am to her next need.

Speak up in the comments.   How do you handle the various texting issues?  What are your challenges?

ht to the great Greg Smith (Ranger Fan) at sowhatfaith.com for the title

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