Teen Texting and Parental Involvement: What’s Appropriate Vs.  When Is It Crossing A Line?

If you live in the 21st century and you are a parent to a teenager, chances are that you are constantly surrounded with the conflict of texting.  In today’s day and age, teenager’s are spending a tremendous amount of time on their cell phones and it is causing stress in the homes.  On a regular basis, there are probably multiple reminders to put down the phone, to decrease your screen time, and to get outdoors.  These are all good reminders for our teens and by all means, boundaries need to be put into place. Setting some rules for how often a teen should be on their phone and when they need to unplug is a healthy way to keep them active and more involved in other interests.  Obviously, this is easier said than done but it’s important to come up with a schedule for your teens and helping them to understand the importance of balance.  While boundaries are important, there’s a different topic that needs to also be addressed.  This topic comes down to understanding a teens privacy when it comes to their cell phone and what actions you should and should not take.

Understanding What Texting Means To A Teenager

When it comes to texting for a teenager, this is one of their primary forms of communication with their friends and the outside world.  For most teens, this is what they have grown up with and it’s something of the norm to text a friend about their problems, about school work, or about general gossip.  Most teens in this day and age probably received their first phone between the ages of 10-12 and from there on it’s been the number one way to communicate with their friends, to make plans, etc.  Gone are the days of jumping on your bike and riding over to a friends house to see if they are available to go out.  Making plans and communicating via text is simply the norm these days.  A cell phone to a teen is seen as a way to have freedom and to become more independent.  For the majority of teens, a cell phone means they have reached a point in their life where they have become responsible and more mature.  It’s a point in time where the parents have agreed that they can be trusted to make good decisions and choices.

Where Does The Conflict Arise?

Now that your teen does have the privilege of having a cell phone, this is where a lot of new conflict can arise.  At first it’s exciting and new and they are probably on their phone what may seem like the majority of the day.  At this point in time it’s important to talk with your teen about the allowed amount of time they should be on their phone and when they need to put it away.  Setting some boundaries when your teen first gets their phone is a good way to avoid any confusion in the future.  This is a healthy and important step when it comes to cell phones.  The conflict that arises, however, is not from the amount of usage the teen has but when a parent begins to overstep and starts to worry about who their teen is texting and what is being discussed.

Many parents begin to start checking their teens texting feeds to make sure they aren’t getting into trouble or being mean to others, etc.  They begin to check who their teen is texting, what they are saying, and how often they are communicating with others.  This can become a HUGE problem for teenagers and the relationships they have with their parents.  Not only does this take away the trust they were given in the first place but it becomes an invasion of privacy.  Can you imagine back in the day if our parents were on the other line of the receiver when we used to call our friends?  It is guaranteed that an argument would ensue if this had happened to us as teens.  In today’s day and age, it’s the same type of invasion and betrayal.  It’s not trusting that our teens will make good choices and it’s not allowing teens to feel comfortable discussing what is on their mind with peers.

The fact that a text is more accessible to parents may be a cause as to why they check their teenager’s phones more often too.  It’s important to remember, however, that this kind of accessibility wasn’t around years ago and most teenager’s thoughts and feelings weren’t broadcasted in a text format.  Kids had the freedom to talk to their friends about their feelings without parents being able to access what was discussed over the telephone line.  This type of trust should be implemented in today’s age as well.  Just because it is accessible doesn’t mean that parents should take advantage of this and search for wrong doings or conversations to cause them concern.  This also becomes an issue when a parent then sees a negative text, texts the teens friend and then becomes involved in the conflict.  This creates more problems and ultimately more strain on the relationship between you and your teenager.

Healthy Ways To Assure Positive Texting Habits

So what can you do if you are concerned about your teenagers texting habits?  Is their a healthy way to put yourself at ease and trust that your teen won’t abuse their texting privileges?  The answer is yes, absolutely.  One of the best things you can do is sit down with your teen and have a good conversation about what is expected. Let them know that you trust them to use their cellphone in a positive manner and to not abuse it.  Let them know that the expectation is they won’t disrespect others or use social media as a way of bullying others either. Simply talk to your teen and try to provide as much support as possible.  Let them know that if they feel a conversation with a friend is negative or risky that they can open up to you about it.  Or perhaps if there is bullying and they feel like they are being attacked in a group conversation, etc that you are there to help them through it.  If you build a foundation that helps a teen to feel supported and non judged, they will be more likely to come to you if a texting conversation does turn sour or feels threatening.  If, however, you invade their privacy right from the start it may be hard to fix this and build a trusting relationship.  Making sure you are open with your teen right from the start is the best way to build a positive relationship and trust that your teen will make wise decisions when it comes to texting.

The take home is this; trust your teen to make good decisions and be there for them if they do make a mistake.  After all, they are human and they are going to experience things in life that are meant for learning. As much as we want to protect our kids and keep them from making mistakes, sometimes the best thing you can do for them is to let them navigate things on their own and simply be there to help lift them up if something does go wrong.  At the end of the day, you wouldn’t want your teenager looking through all of your text messages.  Having reciprocal respect will go a long way and will make everyone happier and more confident in the end.

If you have any questions regarding this article or want some suggestions and advice on how to talk to your teen, feel free to contact me.  I can also be reached at (720) 217-5501 or through the contact page and will be happy to talk with you!