If you have a child with a cellphone, then they have probably used it to send and receive some text messages. Texting messaging has become one of the more ubiquitous modes of communication available to young, to the point where some parents feel that their kids do nothing but stare at their phones and text friends. It’s understandable though: for younger and older kids alike, a smartphone is a non-negotiable lifeline to the world at large, the most direct way to communicate with their friends.

The fact is that texting is a part of our children’s lives, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing: it allows our kids to feel more connected to their friends and loved ones, helps shy children be more outgoing, and it’s an easy way for kids to check in with parents. Most of parent’s apprehensions towards texting isn’t because texting itself is bad, but because it can be a distraction from other responsibilities or a window to other bad behavior. As such, while banning texting is probably not a good idea, it is important to manage your child’s texting behavior.

Setting Some Ground Rules

If you’re concerned that your child is spending too much time on their phone or are sending inappropriate texts, then you should set some hard rules for your children to follow. If you haven’t already established such rules, be sure to explain to your kids that you aren’t putting any new rules into place as a punishment. Instead, simply stress that you want to keep them safe while ensuring they can still have their fun.

Consider these eight important rules, both as a guide for what to teach your kids and as a reminder for yourself.

  1. Don’t text and drive. Dividing your attention between texting and anything else is a surefire recipe for trouble, and texting while driving can be downright dangerous. If you can teach them only one thing about texting etiquette, make it this!
  2. Think before you text. The speed and convenience of taking are both its greatest benefits and its biggest flaws. It is easy to impulsively send a text without thinking about how it would make someone feel or what the long-term repercussions could be. Always stress the importance of taking a moment before texting. NEVER text while angry!
  3. Keep it brief. The whole point of texting is that you can quickly send short messages back and forth. If you’re writing pages upon pages of text, you’re better off calling someone on the phone.
  4. Text at the right time. You should teach your child that there are certain times that you just shouldn’t be texting: at the dinner table, in class, at church, during a movie, or at any important event. Even if they aren’t aware of it, their behavior can come off as rude and hurtful, so there are certain times you should avoid texting, period.
  5. Don’t text in front of others. Explain that texting someone while you’re spending time with someone else is extremely rude, especially if they are talking to you. Unless it’s an emergency, you should always wait until later. If you must respond, then apologize and ask for a moment.
  6. Texting doesn’t replace talking. While texting is often more convenient than meeting with someone face-to-face or even having a phone call, the fact is that it isn’t an adequate replacement. When possible, you should meet with someone or at least a more substantial conversation: you can have a phone call, use Facetime, or set up a Zoom meeting.
  7. Sexting is serious. Once your child reaches a certain age, it is important to talk to them about sexting and its potential consequences. Sending or receiving sexually explicit photos and texts can have major social and legal ramifications. Explain that even if they trust someone, there are some things that just shouldn’t be sent in a text.
  8. Texting is a privilege, not a right. While you shouldn’t be too quick to punish them by taking away their phone, you should still establish that texting is a privilege that can be lost should they indulge in bad behavior.

Good Text Messaging Etiquette Starts With You!

One last thing to remember: if you want your kids to adopt good text messaging etiquette, you need to model good behavior. If you don’t practice what you preach, it just shows them that you don’t take it seriously, and if you don’t, then why should they? Even if you do find yourself slipping and called out though, don’t get angry. The best thing you can do is thank them and say that you’ll do better going forward. After all, you might be teaching them good behavior, but the best teachers are still open to learning too.