Posts tagged tweens
Texting and Children: What to do

I was away on Tuesday, sorry to miss you all! I was away from my husband and children for the night. My kids had the day off from school, and my husband took the day off to hang with them. They enjoyed bookstores and the movies, and I was missing out.

During my morning activity, I received a series of texts back and forth from both of my daughters. They went something like what you see to the right.

Love notes. Check ins. Even silly jokes.

Their messages totally made my day, and I thought about how glad I am that my seven- and nine-year old children have Ipods and text me.

And then I hesitated. Wait, what? I'm glad that my kids are texting?

Insert moral mom dilemma.

Oh, geez, is this good for them? What does this mean for their budding communication skills? Are they focused on what's going on around them or are they zoned into a device?

I try to limit my kid's screen time, generally. No one can take their device to school, and the kids ask us before they take them anywhere outside the house.

If I'm being honest about it, I love getting their texts. It's another tool in the belt for seeing inside their minds, another avenue to talk about what's on their minds. As long as it doesn't dominate or even become a majority of communication, let's meet each other there, too. How can we as parents use this form of communication to help foster positive relationships and parenting with our digital kids? 

Research and data isn't everything, but I'm prone to lean my ear toward it. Here are some interesting aspects to digital communication with our kids, tweens, and teens. 

Industry research shows that 61 percent of those on the internet are 3-11-years old, and a full 22 percent of children 6-9-years old have their own cell phone (whoa).

Between the ages of 8 and 13, kids are developing key relationship and communication skills, and typically want to spend as much time as they can with peers. Technology just gives them new ways to do that. Texting, in particular, seems tailor-made for the tween psyche. Not only does it allow users to perma-connect with their social group, it also gives them all sorts of new ways to either include others (by sharing peeks at the screen or using slang) or exclude them (by typing silently while next to Mom on the couch).

Danah Boyd, Microsoft researcher and fellow of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, notes that there are a number of reasons why kids aren't connecting with one another the way we used to (with lack of neighborhoods, busy after school schedules, worn out children).

The difference is that when we were kids, we got on our bikes and checked in every once in awhile at home but weren’t expected to be connected to parents all the time. Young people just want to be with friends, and that is no different from any generation. But they have fewer opportunities to connect with friends.

I see that already with my kiddos. And I support strong friendships, not at the cost of family time or other communication, but I support them. Texting can only be an additional, and not the main, source of communication.

While the Pew parents were happy to be able to reach each other and their kids while apart, they were less likely to eat dinner as a family than were other households, and tended to report feeling dissatisfied with family and leisure time. A study by computer software maker Norton made a similar finding: When total time spent online increased beyond a certain point, both kids and parents reported feeling less connected.

So here are our general rules:

How do you do it? What are your guidelines? Do you text your kids?

xoxo, MJ

P.S. Love these creative ways for teachers to incorporate texting into a lesson.