As a parent of two teenagers and a 20-year-old college sophomore, I have fallen in love with texting. We are one of those families that use texting to communicate every day.
The low-tech days
Recently I told my kids about the “low-tech” days of my teenage years – the days before cell phones, before cordless phones and computers. I explained how we coveted extra long telephone cords attached to our parents’ house phones that allowed us to hide in the pantry or basement stairwell away from discerning eyes. I explained how an elite few of us had access to a telephone in the upstairs hall or in our own bedroom (plugged into the wall of course). Some of us could choose a fun color like pink for that clunky phone – but for the most part we were just happy to have a phone to use.
Exercising our independence, we communicated with our friends verbally and pre-arranged a time and place to meet. We waited patiently when our friends were late. Our parents also had to wait – patiently or not – when we were out. We might use a pay phone (they were everywhere then) if we needed a ride, but more often than not, we arrived home at the designated hour – or suffered the consequences which might include grounding and loss of phone privileges.
Can’t they just call each other?
For those of us from this generation – the one where teenagers ran to answer the house phone before their parents picked up – texting still seems a bit foreign. I know what you’re thinking: Can’t they just call each other? Besides, there’s a lot of noise out there about whether texting is a good thing. Articles like: 4 Ways Texting is Killing Our Communication Skills by Susan Young, leave us wondering what to think. In her article she comments on how texting is responsible for the “dumbing down of spelling and grammar” and reducing the need for “in-depth conversation.” Yikes! She also states that texting is impacting our education system without offering any data. Really?
Texting isn’t the reason
I understand that when a new technology enters our lives and that of our children – and threatens to complicate parenting – we can get a little testy. But it’s exasperating when people start blaming technology for the failures of education. And, it’s insulting when someone implies that technology makes our teenagers stupid. It does not and they are not. They know they need good grades to get into college and they understand the difference between texting language and the English language. They know what texting is and what it is not. We simply can’t compare texting to the study of grammar. They are very different things.
In addition, teenagers may write short texts, but they are not eliminating deep conversations from their lives. They take English courses where they are required to discuss classic novels and write seven page essays – and, they stay up all night talking at “sleepovers”!
Ultimately, author Susan Young misses all of the advantages of texting; advantages that teenagers and parents from my generation just never had before. Technology is not going away – if anything, it will continue to advance. We might just embrace it and see how it can help our parenting and relationship skills.
I love texting
Here are the four biggest reasons I love texting with my kids:
- It’s Convenient: Just like the old-fashioned answering machine, texting is delivered and then picked up when it is convenient for the recipient. This means parents can text encouraging notes: “Good luck on your test today!” “I love you – have a good day,” at any time, whenever they think of it, without interrupting their children’s school day, sporting practice, or gab session.
- It’s Private: Texting is received in a private “read-only” way that allows the parent to send a message without risk of embarrassment to the child. The child can nonchalantly scroll to his message read it and even respond without revealing with whom he is communicating. It’s almost like having a little secret with your child. I text “I love you” messages all the time – and often get back “You too! Yay!” from my kids. When we call, the child has to answer: “Hello? Oh, hi, Mom;” which can be inconvenient, very public, and very embarrassing!
- It’s Reassuring: I have a great sense of connection with my kids when I can communicate with them via text at anytime, anywhere. I like the reassurance texting provides and I think they do too. I can ask my son to text me when he’s leaving a friend’s house or a school dance. He can then text me if there’s a change in plans or expects to be late. I can fire questions back if I need to for more clarification. It’s piece of mind in a few short characters!
- It’s Fun: Whether we’re attaching funny pictures, using emoticons, or telling jokes, texting has become a fun part of our family conversation and experience. Because it’s fun, we know our kids will read our texts, answer them, and even initiate their own.
The only warning I have for you, should you decide to make texting part of your parenting, is to keep your phone charged and with you at all times. Your kids keep their phones charged and with them at all times and this is what makes them so accessible to you. Don’t make the mistake I did a few months ago and miss several texts and follow-up phone calls from your college son because your phone has a dead battery. Luckily for us, there was no emergency, my son simply wanted to connect. But, for a while, he stopped texting or calling me entirely and went straight to his dad. I had to rebuild his trust, assuring him that I had my phone at hand and was ready to connect at any time! Thank goodness we’re back on good terms. In fact, I received an “I love you too yay!” Just the other day!