Text Messaging: Parents vs. Reality

Lauren will be 15 in a couple of months. We gave her a cell phone when she turned 13 and she’s been good about managing it. That first month was a shocker when she had to pay $100 for exceeding the minutes on our plan; she thought we only paid for outgoing calls and that all incoming stuff was free.  No overage charges since.

Call me a fuddy duddy (OK, that’s enough), but I thought that a cell phone would do the trick for keeping in touch with family and friends. That is to say, why would we need text messaging, too?

As part of an exercise in writing a persuasive letter for one of her classes, Susan and I received the following from Lauren:

Dear (formal greeting),

Imagine a girl named Lauren walking through the halls, wondering why everybody was dressed up like a weirdo. Then a few people walk up and say, “Hey, Lauren, didn’t you get my text saying that today was Wacky Day? You’re dressed up regular today.” “No, I didn’t get it. Texting is blocked on my phone but I called all of you guys and left a message to see if today was Wacky Day, but nobody called me back.” “Oh, well we’re too lazy to check our voicemails. Sorry.”

I have been uninformed of many events or important things because of my inability to text. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to let me text because I’m responsible and polite. I think that you should let me text.

You guys think that texting is unnecessary and expensive. I can understand that texting seems like just another costly accessory, but it’s actually useful in certain situations. Like next year it would be useful to keep in touch with all of my friends that I have worked so hard to get to know in middle school when I go to a different high school. Keeping touch with all of those people with voice communication (over the cell phone) would get VERY expensive and I would get into some trouble. It’s easy for me to keep in touch now with all of my friends at school because I see them every day. If I go to a different school than everybody else it will be ten times harder to keep in touch. Also, when Zack gets a phone, texting would help us keep the bill low and reduce my minutes. I would be willing to pay a part or all of the expenses.

Another reason why you think I shouldn’t text is that texting can be addicting, rude, and dangerous. I understand that kids my age are texting even if there is someone standing right next to them, or during the middle of a conversation! Kids older than me are actually texting while they are driving, which is extremely dangerous and not very smart. You guys have raised a well-mannered child, and I wouldn’t do any of those things because it’s VERY rude and VERY dangerous, and I don’t want to lose any of my friends due to the fact that I ignore them and text. Also, when I can drive, I wouldn’t text while I was driving because I know that many teens have gotten into accidents because they have been texting while they are driving and not keeping their eyes on the road.

The last reason why you think I shouldn’t text is that just because there is a technology available doesn’t mean we have to use it. I can understand that there are many new technologies out there that aren’t necessarily useful or important, but we feel like we have to use them just because they are available to us. I say that if we were NOT to use technologies that are available to us but we don’t have to use, we might as well live in a cave with just a fire to keep us warm. We use so many technologies every single day in our daily lives. We could get along just fine without them, but we chose to use them just to make life easier for us. I could use texting and it would make life a lot easier for me, especially in high school because I would have an easy, quick way to keep in touch with everybody that I’ve met in middle school.

In conclusion, texting isn’t completely necessary. But it does make communication easier. And with me being a big social person, I’m always looking for a way to make communication with my friends easier than it is. I would be willing to pay for texting. I wouldn’t become addicted. My parents have raised a smart child, and I don’t see what harm texting would do if I could have it.

Sincerely,

So we have resisted the addition of texting for these many months. Our family is still very intact and Lauren still has a bazillion friends. Then last week Susan and I were talking with our marriage counselor (yes, that’s right) about having two teens when Zack joins the ranks this fall. We explained to him how we’ve resisted text messaging, thinking that we were holding an important line. He explained to us that this is how kids communicate. Email is too slow, and cell phones only allow you to talk with one person at a time. Cutting Lauren off from this flow of communication could isolate her more than we realized at a time when connections with friends are of overarching importance.

We don’t want that, and we know what a good – great – kid she is. This is another opportunity for us to trust her with one of those next steps. And if we need another incentive program to pull her in, that’ll be a good one.  We decided to do it.  (We’ll also continue to monitor activity and make sure that our expectations are clear.)

Our plan was to turn on text messaging, then send her a message letting her know about it. When we activated it today, she was immediately notified and had already sent a message to one of her friends even before she came running out of her room with a huge smile and gave me a great big bear hug and half a dozen thank yous.

* * * * * * * * * *

We see over and over how much of parenting is about our willingness to face our own fears, insecurities, ignorance, and unresolved issues. We want the kids to see that we can and do listen, understand, and absorb new information. And because we love them like crazy, we’ll seriously consider things that are not native to us but that really matter to them. Not only that, we can change our minds and admit that those were good decisions!

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3 responses to “Text Messaging: Parents vs. Reality

  1. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for sharing this.

    I’m not even sure what Ethan’s going to want to get into in 14 years- texting probably won’t be the thing just like IM and e-mail are slowly fading away…

    But at the same time, the principles you’ve shared about facing own fears about parenting while also keeping an open mind to what our kids really need in order to relate to their world are really important. I’m learning a lot from your relationship with your kids. Thanks for letting me watch and listen!

  2. And to think, I wasn’t even going to get my kids a cell phone! Hee hee!

  3. I really liked your post. I am exploring this issue and it caught my eye. My own kids aren’t there yet but will be soon. If you are interested, I just posted about the book Generation Text, which has some really interesting pointers and things to think about.

    http://parentingbits.wordpress.com

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