My Texting Teens

I don’t post much about raising teens. The reason? I don’t know much. I’m just beginning this journey. Maybe once Esther is a teen, I’ll have learned something. For now, Daniel and I are praying for wisdom… a lot.

Don’t get me wrong. I love, love, love my teens and I enjoy them! They are hilarious. It’s really fun to have older children who make you laugh because they are truly witty. It beats the same old knock-knock jokes that come with typical eight- year- old humor. They ask great questions and are growing in the Lord. They are truly a joy!

Yet, there are some teen issues that require boundaries and texting is one of them. This is new territory for me. I sometimes wish it didn’t exist yet it is here to stay, I am afraid. Last week at the Revolve Conference, a World Vision promotional video was played. The entire video consisted of words typed across the screen. I didn’t really get it. I’m moved by visual images of hungry children and I wondered why a video promoting sponsorship wouldn’t show the children in need. Then I looked around at the teens watching – fixated on each word. My friend beside me astutely stated, “This generation is affected greatly by texting. They identify. For them, it’s a powerful ad.”

Texting is as common to our teens today as a phone hooked to the wall  was for me in the 80’s. It’s the way

Goodnight phones!

teens communicate. Yet, unlike the phone, it’s accessible always. I never would have called a friend at 1 am growing up and such is quite common in the texting world. Texting can be distracting. It can be dangerous. And it must be controlled or it can be controlling.

So… 2 1/2 years into parenting teens I’ve learned a few things about texting.  Unfortunately, my husband and I have had to “go backwards.” This basically means that we, unknowingly or naively, allowed some things and had to go back and make rules that ideally should have been in place from the beginning of phone ownership.

Anna's sparkly cover

Because I’ve noticed that “What do you do about texting” is a very common conversation of teen moms, I’m going to share a few texting rules that we’ve “gone backwards” and implemented. Know that I’m not saying all families should do this. It’s just what’s working for us for now. As our children mature, the rules may change – some of them anyway.

1. All phones, ipod touches and computers stay in the den while we are home. This is the biggest change. This rule came about because we realized our teens were very distracted by their gadgets at night. They simply weren’t getting enough sleep. Also, our older children do their school in their rooms. Again, the phones, computers, etc were keeping them from completing their work in a timely manner. Now, because I hang out all day in the den and kitchen, which is beside the docking station, I can keep tabs on who is on task. Teens are having to learn to use old fashioned dictionaries and calculators instead of iTouch/iPhone apps during school time.

2. We (the parents) have all passwords and reserve the right to spot check conversations anytime we want. We also look online at the in/out activity. Too much texting (like an hour of back and forth) is checked out.

3. Our daughters may not text boys. They may respond if a boy (that we know) texts them, but again… no hour long texting conversations. If they need to text a friend who is a guy, they need to ask us about it first.

4. No phones are allowed at the dinner table. No texting is allowed during family time. Our teens must always put their phones away when we have guests.

5. Our children may not put in headphones without permission. I’ve spent too much time calling and calling and calling them to discover that they can’t hear me. This isn’t exactly a texting rule, but it’s a phone/ipod thing.

6. If texting and phone rules are broken, the privilege to have a phone disappears.

And there you have it. Now, I feel like I can live with my teens and  texting. It’s not out of control. Our children are not as addicted to their phones as they once were. One must feel for the oldest children. They are the guinea pigs. Hopefully by the time we have teens #3 and #4 (our twins), we’ll not have to “go backwards” as often. So far, these simple rules are working very well. What works for you? (other than maybe just not having phones at all?)

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7 Responses to “My Texting Teens”

  1. Shannon Says:

    Thanks for this! Although we have been holding off on phones, The time will come very soon(Maci will be 13 this summer) And, I have been thinking of phone etiquette/boundaries to set in place. Similar to what you have shared. Your insight is helpful! BTW, we have a group coming to the mom heart conference. Maybe we’ll bump in to you there:)

  2. Lindsey Swinborne Says:

    I really appreciate this post, even though my kids have another 10 years to go before I hit this stage. The texting phenomenon really bothers me because even my adult women friends can’t have a conversation with me without texting in the middle of it. I realize it makes life more convenient in relaying messages with your spouse or kids or loved ones, but it is such an addiction and distraction. My hubby and I don’t have cell phones and we get along just fine. Of course, if we needed one for safety’s sake or for his job we would get one but we don’t. We are pretty “behind-the-times” and like it that way.
    I like your rules and think we will adopt them because no doubt every person alive will have a cell phone of some kind by the time our kids are teens! My brother in Honduras says that everyone, no matter how poor, has TV and a cellphone, even if they can barely afford food or rent. The cells down there are pre-paid plans like the Trac phones here.

  3. Lindsey Swinborne Says:

    And, I will add, that after talking to my “responsible mommy friends” and realizing how many of them text while driving it makes me scared to share the road. If they, who have many small children with them and are pregnant, are texting, then irresponsible teens and selfish adults and non-parents and singles, and EVERYONE must be texting while driving! I don’t want to be on the road with these people!

  4. Cindy Says:

    Lindsey, I feel your pain. I never text, because I can’t afford the data plan. I can’t tell you how insulted I feel when someone is chatting with me IRL and then breaks to answer a text. It’s extremely rude, but what can I say?

  5. Tina Says:

    LIndsey, Excellent tip about the driving. I don’t have a driver yet although my oldest has taken the written test and will soon have a learner’s permit. I won’t even answer my cell phone while driving, much less text! Shannon, I do hope to see you at the conference! Cindy, Daniel and I shared a phone until 5 years ago. I truly didn’t own a cell phone until I was approaching mid-thirties. You can imagine the learning curve. I think I text about 20 times a month – all to my husband or children. I’m also annoyed when it’s allowed to be a constant interruption.

  6. Heather Says:

    Tina,
    Thanks so much for your insightful post. My teen does not as of yet have his own phone, but he borrows mine from time to time to text his friends. Even for the few times he has it, though, he becomes quickly addicted. When we finally give in and get him his own phone (which is probably going to have to be next school year with him going into high school), this set of rules should help to get us off on the right foot hopefully. Let me know how it goes and if you have to tweek anything.

  7. Stacy Says:

    Thanks! I like this and it really gives me some good ideas for limits for when Ben gets a phone (way in the future). Interesting how it has become so ingrained in our culture. My eight year old is adept at texting from my phone (it is one way for him to keep in touch with his dad who is deployed). It amazes me how early kids get phones around here. Ben is offended (at age 8) that he doesnt have one, and many of my 5th grade students have smart phones

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