My soon-to-be 9-year-old started texting recently. I know – gulp. She uses an icloud address we set up for her and our iPad. At first, it was just sending photos and messages to her grandmas. Then some of the girls in her class started exchanging numbers and email addresses, and somehow that turned into full on texting.
At first, I didn’t think anything of a few texts here and there. But then I spoke with some other moms and one told me that her daughter received/sent more than 600 texts one weekend. Yikes. I realized that we needed to jump in and get a handle on the situation.
But where to start? I didn’t start texting until I was in my 30s, so I didn’t know exactly how to advise a tween on texting etiquette. What are the obvious rules, and what should be explicitly communicated? What sort of laws should we lay down as parents that would be fair yet effective? This stage of parenting seems particularly scary because it’s unfamiliar to our generation, having not been exposed to texting as kids ourselves.
The internet is full of advice. My husband and I finally decided that our daughter wouldn’t be allowed to text at all hours of the day – only during her designated screen time. It’d be her choice whether she wanted to text or watch videos. And I texted (the irony!) my daughter a link to this list of do’s and don’ts article from Psychology Today that I found helpful. The highlights are below, and you can read the full article here.
– Choose your words carefully. If you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face, don’t send it via text. Technology makes it too easy to be impulsive or unkind. Also, the person reading your message can’t see your facial expressions or hear your tone of voice. Sarcasm and humor often get lost in translation. Don’t gossip about other people while you are texting. Your words can be misinterpreted, manipulated, and forwarded without your permission. Stop and ask yourself, “What would Mom think if she read this?”
– What you text is permanent. Once you share something, you lose control of where it goes, who can forward it, who will see it, and how it can potentially be used. Remember that what happens in cyberspace stays in cyberspace – forever! Once you put something out there, it’s impossible to take it back.
– Don’t talk to strangers. Predators have clever ways of soliciting personal information from young people. Never share private information over text, including your full name, home address, personal photos, school name, or phone number.
– Set strong passwords on all of your accounts to protect your identity. Never share your password, even with your best friend. The exception to this rule is your parents – DO share your passwords with them. And never let a friend text from your account.