Technology is a love hate relationship. Parents have more to manage and track for their kids than ever before. We find many teachable moments. This includes setting boundaries, keeping them safe, and having fun with your kids. It is a healthy tension between setting limits and laughing with your kids. Here is a scary statistic. Did you know the average age a child receives their first cell phone is 10 years old?
These tips are usable in many different aspects of communication but I am going to focus on texting. We learn as parents there needs to be some ground rules on texting. Here are some suggestions that I recommend to parents and have used myself:
There needs to be boundaries around texting. We set limits on our kids using the stove for fear they would hurt themselves or others. Not having boundaries around texting can be very damaging to their mental health.
1. Avoid talking about others on texting
We want to live by the Golden Rule by treating others the way we want to be treated. Asking your child, if what they are writing is something they would want to see written about them? I have used the questions, Is it True? Is it Kind? Is it Necessary?
2. How many text messages are too many?
I bring this up because I've had to manage the number of texts my kids are sending to their friends. One of my own kiddos sent over 20 text messages to a friend before they could text back. Teach your kid about waiting for their friend to respond before sending multiple messages.
3. Balance texting with talking to friends over video calls, phone calls, or in person.
We want to encourage them to have real face to face conversations with them. It is easy to get away with saying mean things on texts and for their words to be misunderstood. They need opportunities to learn basic communication skills.
There are people out there who are looking to hurt and prey on kids. We have to help them develop good safety habits.
1. Know who your kid is texting
Kids get excited about the freedom to talk with their friends through texting. Checking in on their contacts and knowing who the people are is paramount. If they give their friend a silly name on their contact, make sure you know their real name.
2. Group Messaging is dangerous
Kids can be very mean with text messages. When there is an audience of a group text, it seems to give them permission to say hurtful things about others. It can create a mob mentality where one instigates and others follow along.
3. Read their messages
Over the last year, I have done surveys with middle school parents about cell phone use. It shocked me to learn that many parents allowed cell phones to live in their kids’ bedroom. Kids need a break from their device. Plus, it gives you a chance to read their messages. You want to make sure your kid is doing okay, their friends are doing okay, and you can intervene if necessary. It helps them to think before typing and helps with the boundaries I spoke about above.
Fun is always important in parenting. We enjoy these little humans who we are helping form in the ways of the world. So...
1. Send your child fun text messages
Your kid has excitement about being able to have this freedom so join in on the fun.
2. Memes that you know they will like
Part of being in a relationship with your kid is knowing what they like and what would make them laugh. Try sending them age appropriate memes. This will let them know you take an interest in something they like, who they admire, and/or a shared interest.
Laughter is important to good mental health. Share jokes with them - even when they are corny dad jokes. Let them know they can have fun with you too. You are the parent and you are setting boundaries for their safety because you love them. It doesn't mean you can't enjoy a laugh with them too.
What are some of the things you have tried? Please, send me an email and share your ideas. We are in this together!
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