Last month’s phone bill confirms it: Houston, we’ve got a problem. Your teen sent 4,600 texts and your tween sent 2,210. Congratulations: In one month, your kids have managed to exceed the total number of war codes sent during the entire six-year span of WWII.
And there are other problems lately like falling asleep in school, texting drama, and a parent-child relationship that could be better. Something’s gotta give. But how do you back track? How do you set out to curb a problem that technically you, as a parent, started the day you handed your son or daughter a phone?
With honesty, patience, and a plan for change.
10 Tips to Rein In Your Child’s Excessive Texting
1. Confront the problem. Talk about what you aren’t talking about. It’s likely that the endless texting and mumbled responses bother you, but you’ve learned to live with it. Call a family meeting to discuss the situation and how to improve communication. Allow your kids to contribute ideas and solutions. This helps make excessive texting an “us” issue and not a “you” issue.
2. Own your part, do your part. Admit to your child that you have let the issue slide and should have stepped in earlier (if that’s the case). Own your part, set some new ground rules, and work together to curb the problem. If texting isn’t just your teen’s problem but yours as well, make the changes your are requiring of your whole family.
3. Respect the culture. Be aware that some teens see ignoring a text as social suicide. Be respectful of the peer culture they must live in daily—whether you understand and agree with its practices or not.
4. Start small and build. Any change is easier when it’s done slowly. Begin with a “no phones at the dinner table” rule and move up to leaving the phone behind on short outings such as the movies, church, or when running errands. The more your child gets used to the physical absence of a phone, the easier it may be to curb the perceived need to text habitually.
5. Go dark one day a week. We’ve said it repeatedly. We highly recommend going dark (shutting off all technology) one day a week or between set hours each day. This practice will help restore balance in the home as well as temper your teen’s (and your entire family’s) urge to check digital channels.
6. Model balance. The next time your text alert goes off on your phone, and you are mid-conversation with your child or engaged in another activity, shut your ringer off. If your child sees you taking control of your engagement level, she will likely follow.
7. Teach self-control. There’s a reward that comes from exercising restraint. It might surprise your child to learn that she does not have to respond to a text right away. Explain the concept of self-control and how she holds the power to decide when, how, and to whom she responds. This will also require you to model priorities.
8. Set a phone curfew. Recent studies show that compulsive texting is affecting teens physically. Set a phone curfew to make sure your teen isn’t spending her valuable sleep hours texting with friends.
9. Be proactive—encourage calls. The tipping point of the texting craze may be close at hand. Isolation, depression, and lack of meaningful friendships are topics for both teens and adults. Some employers are even implementing a no texting at work policy to curb the habits of younger employees. Encourage your child to reach out more and buck the norm of text-only friendships and be proactive in helping them in the long run.
10. Encourage other interests. Genuinely affirm your child in other areas of life such as hobbies, academics, and unique interests. Consistently build their confidence to try new things.
Texting is an important form of peer-to-peer connection, however, as parents it’s equally important to monitor texts now and then for appropriateness and to know who your kids’ friends are. This sets rails in place for online safety and reminds our kids that have their best interests at heart.