In the past two weeks, my sixteen-year-old daughter has sent or received over 3,000 text messages. So far it hasn’t affected her grades, but I worry that this much texting is excessive and unhealthy. What should we do?
Answer: We would agree that this frequency and level of texting is unhealthy. That said, this isn’t a single-sided issue, so it’s also helpful to look at the matter from your daughter’s perspective. Texting is a tool she’s using to stay connected with her friends – and at this stage of life, that connection is vital to her developing sense of personal identity. To some extent, that’s completely normal. For her generation, texting is almost like breathing – children have a hard time imagining life without it.
In that context, honestly assess the reasons for your anxiety. Is it the texting that bothers you, or is your real concern about the quality of the relationships the texting represents? Use that insight for the foundation of your discussion.
Emphasise that nothing put in text or any other form of social media can be kept absolutely private; that should always be in the forefront of your daughter’s mind. Also, remind her of the addictive element inherent to any form of involvement with social media. It’s easy for a habit to become an obsession, and for an obsession to become an addiction. So coach her to exercise discretion when texting or connecting with others via the Web. Try to agree on reasonable limits and guidelines.
Meanwhile, encourage your daughter to think intentionally about the nature and quality of good relationships. Talk about the important differences between electronic communication and actual face-to-face time with other people. Help her gain perspective so that she, too, can approach the subject of texting from a broader and more knowledgeable point of view.
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