Parents Perspective on Teen Text Messaging

download yIt was a foggy, late September morning here in northern Wisconsin. The sun had just come up, the grass was wet with dew, and the kids were scrambling to gather their backpacks and head out the door to catch the bus.

As my two teenage boys strolled across the dewey grass, I peered out the front door to catch a glimpse of both of them side by side, heads down, texting. It was one of those classic moments where you wish you had a camera right there in your hand – they were walking off into the fog toward the bus stop checking their phones and texting at 7:00 am.

It made me think – how much teen texting is too much? At what point does it become a problem, or perhaps, even and addiction?

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?

As most of you with teenage children can attest, teenagers love to text. While text messaging with your teens can be a great way to stay in touch with them, it’s also important to set limits and stick to them when their text messaging starts to interfere with other parts of your lives.

I’ve talked with plenty of parents in my GED School where I work, who have had difficulty dealing with their kids when it comes to too much text messaging. A good friend of ours was at the end of his rope with his son as he had sent 15,000 text messages in one month. Let me repeat that for you – 15,000! Do the math on that one.

So at what point does it become too much? (hint: 15,000) In my mind, as long as it’s not getting in the way of things like homework and family dinners and isn’t being done at inappropriate times, it’s probably fine. It’s almost impossible to put a specific number on what defines “too much”, so use the previous point as your guide. If it is getting in the way of things like homework and your teenager is texting in church, it’s time to set some limits.

TEXT MESSAGING ADDICTION

I’m not a psychologist (I did grow up in a home with two of them), but I do know the general parameters psychologists place around various addictions. A casual drinker becomes an alcoholic when the drinking interferes with their day to day life. A similar assessment can be made with text messaging – if it’s impeding upon normal day to day activities and negatively affecting relationships with others, then it may be a problem.

If you’re questioning the text messaging behavior of your teenager, you may want to do some internet research on text messaging addiction, or even perhaps consult a professional. Having an obsessive behavior that can be curbed by placing limits and restrictions on your teen is different than dealing with a true addiction.

UNLIMITED TEXT MESSAGING

We played the game of lectures and threats with our teenagers for a good year or two until we had finally had enough and we signed-up for unlimited text messaging on our family cell plan. You might be thinking we caved in, but there’s a catch… the $19.95 a month it costs gets paid by our two teen sons.

With this, of course, comes some danger as they are well aware that they can now text away without having to worry about using their allowance to pay for the previous month’s text messaging bill. However, we do carefully monitor both the amount of text messages they send as well as the appropriateness of when they are using their phones.

As parents of teens who grew up without cell phones and the internet and all of the wired things that are now a part of our everyday lives, it’s often difficult for us to deal with situations like these with the young adults living in our homes. Use your intuition, keep an eye on them without