My youngest teen has a friend who loves to text but doesn’t get that it exists on a phone that
1. has an off switch
2. belongs to a person who may be busy when the text comes in an unable to return the text right away.
So, there has been some lags in returning texts with this friend and some texts have been missed. Inevitably, about once a day, almost like clock work, my daughter will receive a text from this friend “are you mad at me, you’re not returning my texts?”
This gal, P, is incredibly sweet and relatively new to the town. Her family is originally from another country but has been in the States for a few years so that shouldn’t be a huge issue at this point. What is new for P is her cell phone and use of texting, though. And, she’s driving all of her friends a bit crazy because once she’s home after school she’ll start to text all of her friends and ask each of them if there is something “going on” if one of them doesn’t return a text.
At the suggestion of us moms, my daughter and her friends have tried to explain to P how texting works and that she shouldn’t be upset if a text isn’t returned right away. They’ve tried to explain to her that if something is really important to call their cells or to call the main number at their houses. They’ve explained that they all have activities after school and often don’t have their cells on. Some of them have explained that they are not allowed to text after a certain time, too.
P’s response: “But, are you mad at me?” She just doesn’t seem to get the bigger picture of textiquette – and is clearly going through an insecure time socially. The two together are a tough mix.
Texting is a gigantic part of tween and teen life and the lifeline to each other. For texting to be incorporated into their social lives in a healthy way, though, tweens and teens need to understand some boundaries so misunderstandings can be avoided.
The best way to help this age group to understanding textiquette is to explain to them the following facts:
1. Texting is sometimes a two way street and sometimes a FYI. Remember everyone is busy and be patient because for someone to respond, that person has to be available to respond. Your friend may be in a lesson, having dinner, or even sleeping!
2. Texting requires the phone to be on! If you don’t hear back from your friend, the phone could be off.
3. Don’t talk about important issues or emotional issues by text. Texting doesn’t allow for in depth talking and is too easy to misinterpret. Phone calls or inperson conversations are better for true talks.
4. If your friend tells you, “I’m busy and can’t text”, respect it. Everyone has busy lives, even kids!
5. If your friend tells you, “I can’t text, my parents tell me I’m at my limit”, respect it. Not everyone has unlimited text plans and some families don’t allow texting when at home or past a certain time at home.
P reminds us how technology amplifies the normal insecurity of the age. If we help our kids feel more comfortable with the social norms of the technology they are using, they’ll navigate the social waters on and off line with a lot more confidence.