At this week's book club meeting, the parents in the room were bemoaning how much our teenagers text. For those of us who are used to using the good old landline phone (bonus points if yours was not cordless), it can almost seem ridiculous. New dangers and scares for parents include sexting, cyberbullying, and everything in between.
One of the moms exclaimed. “My daughter will spend half an hour texting her friends back and forth to coordinate a school project when a 5-minute phone call would clear everything right up!” Our kids just text a lot – some statistics say that the average teen sends and receives over 3,000 texts per month.
Do you feel that your teen is truly texting too much? It can be hard to get perspective on what's normal for a teen, since we didn't grow up with the option of texting anytime, anywhere. Try talking to other parents to get a feel for what's normal for your child and her peers.
Also ask yourself whether your teen's texting is interfering with school, extracurricular activities, or a normal social life. If not, her constant texting may not be as much of a problem as you think it is. But if it is, consider some of the following:
Dump the unlimited texting plan. Get a new plan with a texting threshold every month – and make your child pay for any overages he or she causes.
Involve your child in the bills. Regardless of your texting plan, make your teen shoulder at least part of the monthly bill. Kids will, as a rule, be more responsible in using things they have to pay for with their own money.
Set off-limits time for texting. Together, draw up a list of times when your teen isn't allowed to text. Common times might be dinner time, homework time, or after a certain hour in the evening. You also might need to make other rules, such as “no checking or sending texts when you're having a face-to-face conversation with me,” or “no texting me when I'm within shouting distance.”
Make sure they have other interests. It isn't enough just to limit texting; make sure kids have other outlets for their time and talents. Encourage them to try out for a sport, join band or choir, find a school club they enjoy, or get an after-school job.
We may not always like what our teens do or how they choose to spend all their free time. Frequent texting is a by-product of the kind of life our kids live. But when it gets in the way of normal functioning, it's our job as parents to get involved and set limits.