Need to Know: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Texting


by on February 4, 2010

in Parenting Teens

Whether you want to believe it or not texting has become a huge and vital part of your teen’s life. Texting connects your teen socially. It allows him or her to quickly connect to the outside world. Texting allows your teen to feel like they are “in the know”. It empowers them and allows them to have a voice with little effort into their interpersonal relationships. This has become a unique parenting challenge that has not been faced by other generations of parents. Today’s parents must understand this technology and the part it plays in their teen’s (and sometimes pre-teen’s) life in order to effectively control it and help their teen deal with it constructively. Having clear and concise rules as to what kind of texting will be allowed is also essential. The first step is understand what kids are learning when they text. Here is what parents need to understand about texting-

  • Texting has a language of its own. Today’s teens have developed a quick code language that allows them to send a message instantly. While many of these codes are harmless, others are highly sexual or even drug or alcohol related. While your teen may laugh off some of this “text language” it is important to understand what is really being said when a text is sent. Parents should regularly check their teen’s text messages to determine if personal information is being shared, sexual messages are being sent or guidelines as to what is acceptable texting is not being adhered to.
  • Texts really cannot be traced. Unlike a computer that maintains a hard drive with the capability to track emails and photos, once a text is deleted it really is gone. If your teen is accepting sexual text messages or sexual photos once these are deleted they become untraceable. Worse yet, these types of messages can be easily and quickly passed on (even faster then on most computers). If you do not know what your child is really texting today is the time to find out before any text history is deleted. And most of all it is imperative for parents to understand that their tech savvy teen knows all of this. Do not be fooled by the age old excuse of “I don’t know how that got on there”.
  • Texting can be used in a variety of ways. While the majority of texts your teens send would probably bore you to death with their common theme of what are you doing tonight, boy and girl relationships and perhaps a critical review of a teacher at school, there are many times when texting crosses the line. Many teens feel empowered by the anonymity of texting to use their phones to harass or bully other kids. They say things that they would never say in a face to face confrontation. Stories abound of groups of teens that suddenly gang up to harass one teen sometimes with tragic results. In addition parents should understand the seriousness of sexting. This is when text messages are being sent with sexual content or pictures. This can not only have a devastating effect on young teens that are just developing their sexual identity but can cross over into legal ramifications. It is crucial that your teen understand that even the simple act of passing along sexual text messages or pictures could have serious consequences both at school, with the law and most importantly with you. Experts agree that a strong parental stand (with understood consequences for misbehavior) on what is and is not acceptable when texting is the best possible method for helping your teen deal with the ramifications of this technology.

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