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Text Messages, Texting, Texts, IM, Conflict, Digital Devices, Smartphones

Texting Trouble: When Minor Issues Become Major Problems

Text Messages, Texting, Texts, IM, Conflict, Digital Devices, SmartphonesConflict is difficult, even for adults. But for today’s kids, it’s particularly complex. The interpersonal conflicts that you remember as a child are all still there, but the landscape has changed somewhat. Digital devices in the hands of our kids offer more connectivity (good!), but it comes with many more opportunities for miscommunication.

Tensions between friends can arise from something as minor as an unanswered text message. Kids understand that instant messaging isn’t always instant. In my workshops, kids easily come up with 20 legitimate reasons that someone might not answer a text.

In addition to showering, dinner with family, homework, sleeping and practicing music or a sport, they also mentioned that sometimes they just don’t feel like texting. We need to let kids know that this is OK—that whether you are in 6th grade or a grownup, it can be OK to unplug for any of those reasons, including the last one!

Snapchat, textingDespite acknowledging the things a friend could be doing instead of immediately replying, they still get upset. Their feelings get hurt, and often, their anger escalates the longer it goes unanswered. Sometimes they text again, and again, and again—resulting in a screen that looks like this one.

Group texts, popular with tweens and younger teens, are a mess of challenges. Now the issues are not one-to-one (difficult enough!), but over a network. Within a group dynamic, they feel obligated to participate. But how much? Too much can feel overbearing, not enough can feel aloof. Many kids express reluctance to completely bow out, as they fear their peers will talk about them while they’re not there. There are so many potential land mines!

Your own experiences with navigating relationships can be so helpful to your child. Remember that you have wisdom…and try not to panic when things go wrong in your child’s digital world. Some challenges are inevitable and learning to deal with them is part of growing up in the digital age.

 

So what can you do to help your kids with texting, NOW?

      • Model patience. This is the single best thing that you can offer your child. For instance, when you text your spouse and don’t hear back immediately, pounce on this as a real-life teaching opportunity. Speak aloud, and talk through all the things your spouse could be doing instead of answering your text. Talking to a colleague. On the phone with a client. Driving. Running to catch the bus. Just because you send a text message doesn’t mean that the recipient needs to drop everything to respond!

      • Avoid emotional issues. Text messaging is a great way to stay in touch and feel connected to your peers. It’s great for quick exchanges, planning, and meeting up. In other words, functional and practical uses. Emotional issues, on the other hand, don’t translate well in text messages or social media. They are too complex for such a simple medium. Teach your kids to stick to the functional aspects. That doesn’t mean that you can’t show support for a friend with a well-timed smiley emoticon, but talk with your kids about different situations so they can get a feel for what’s appropriate and what’s not.

      • Express boundaries. Help your child: 1) set some rules on her own; and 2) construct some simple language for expressing a clear boundary to peers. For example, “I don’t group text” or “I can’t respond to texts after 9 pm.” Not only does this teach them about boundaries (useful in general too!), but it also helps them feel less worried about how they will perceived if they don’t respond right away. Their need for inclusion makes it very difficult for them to come up with this on their own, so it’s a great opportunity for you to help.

      • Take it offline. When kids have a conflict, they need skills to mend fences in person. A sense of urgency can take over when trying to resolve a dispute. It can escalate quickly. Exercise restraint, be patient, and resolve the issue in a face-to-face discussion. The phone can work, too—but it’s extremely difficult to successfully resolve an argument via text message. Teach your kids to defer with a simple message, such as, “Texting might not be the best way to discuss this—can we talk F2F?”

      • Invent your own solutions. I love doing this exercise with kids. Pose a question to them—what would you invent to fix this? One group of kids I worked with invented an app to deal with the challenges of group texts. They offered a way to “step out” temporarily (to do homework or take a shower) without coming back to 900 texts. They also offered a feature for getting out completely, and a reminder about who is participating (since you only see phone numbers for non-contacts) so they would know not to talk about those individuals. Really clever stuff, and it’s such a great exercise to make them cognizant of the pitfalls of texting.

Texting can be fun and fulfilling if your child understands how to use it correctly. It can be an important part of their social sphere, so it’s worth investing the time to help them learn the unwritten rules. I hope that these suggestions help you!

Help Me Get Ready For My Child’s First Cell Phone

When you put all these together, it’s easy to see why this is such a source of stress for families. Do you wish there was a course on this? After years of research and talking with families, I’ve  created:

Phonewise Boot Camp for parents to help parents get ready for this milestone.

This course will cover:

    • Planning and organizing your physical space at home to maximize positive outcomes
    • Common digital citizenship challenges for new cellphone/smartphone users
    • What social skills kids need to be successful with their phones and more.
    • Planning for boundaries around when your child will have access to the device

 

Sign Me Up!

 

 Getting Your Child a Phone? Are you ready? Are they ready? Join my Phonewise Boot Camp for Parents to get ready to support them through this important transition. Would you like informative posts like this in your inbox? Sign up here.

 

Photo Credit: Top Photo is by Daniela Reinsch

What 20 year olds REALLY do on Snapchat (hint: NOT sexting)

Guest Post

By Raising Digital Natives Intern, Gemmie F. (20 years old)

Since downloading the Snapchat app last fall, it’s become one of my go-to ways to communicate with the people in my life. I love it. I don’t care if my roommate is in the next room, if I want her to bring me something so I don’t have to get off the couch I’m going to send a picture of my best “please do me a favor” face with a caption such as “Please bring me my charger” or “Want to order me some sushi?” While my example makes me sound extremely lazy, Snapchat is a great way to keep in touch with my friends and family, sometimes even when they’re physically close to me.

Raising Digital Natives founder, Devorah Heitner, asked me to write about “the non-sexting uses of Snapchat.” Is that what adults think Snapchat is used for? Is that what other people use it for? Well the thought had never occurred to me but I guess you could use Snapchat to “sext;” although I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s really easy to screenshot a Snap—meaning someone can keep it as a photo on their phone and do the usual damage—sharing it with others, posting it on the Internet or even using it as blackmail. As a journalism major who’s absolutely terrified of not having a job when I graduate, I am vigilant about protecting my online image. A future employer seeing anything online that makes me look less than employable is the stuff of my nightmares.

My uses for Snapchat are very quotidian–and light-hearted. I mainly use it to communicate with my friends and with my sister who lives on the other side of the country from me. Especially with my sister living so far away it feels a lot more personal to get a captioned photo than a simple text. The visual aspect gives me a better idea of what she’s been up to and in general makes me feel a lot closer to her.

I also use it to talk to my friends (i.e. asking my roommate for favors). I even have one friend who will only make plans via Snapchat. I would prefer a phone call but if I want to see her I need to send about 15 pictures of my face with the caption “So I’m meeting you at what time?” Every Snapchat I send is captioned. It’s a quick, easy way to have mini conversations. And sometimes it’s just fun to send unattractive selfies to my friends.

Snapchat may not be the most productive invention of the century, but for my friends, sister and I, it’s an easy, fun, visual way to keep in touch. Without it how would I know that my friend who’s studying abroad in Prague keeps seeing dogs inside cafés?

Gemmie Fo, Northwestern University

Here are a few recent snaps:

An update from my little sister who’s in Colorado for the summer.

 

parents freaking out about snapchat 20 year old does not use for sexting

My roommate just saying hi (I may have been sitting next to her when this was sent…).

Snapchat? Fun times…What’s it really for?


So Nick Bilton of the NYTimes (and others…) have identified the new app, snapchat as being tempting for sexting. The marketing does seem to favor temptingly topless young women…Any thoughts on other possible uses for snapchat? The idea of a photograph that only exists in the moment has a haunting and fascinating quality…Snapchat art anyone? I want to imagine kids using this for other cool stuff. I searched Twitter Streams to see what the buzz in on the new app, and found this droll tweet:

Funny/sad/sarcastic? Would have to know this young woman more in context to say. If one of my adult women friends said it, I’d think it was pretty funny.