Text messaging remains one of the most popular forms of communication for kids who own phones. A 2015 survey found that 88% of US teenagers aged 13 to 17 have access to a mobile phone of some kind and a majority of teens have smartphones (73%). This number rises to over 90% of teenagers if you include other devices.
The popularity of text messaging is growing amongst children and teens, as it is a quick, convenient and often free form of communication. The rise in the number of free messaging apps bears this out.
Most of our kids are using text messaging responsibly. However, there are still many good reasons for monitoring kids’ messages. Here are our 5 top reasons:
1. Inappropriate content
You’ve spent years educating your child not to swear, not to be mean, not to bully. You feel like you’ve done a good job. But the nature of text messaging means it’s easy for kids to forget these lessons. A seemingly innocent text message can hurt or offend. An inappropriate picture sent as a harmless flirtation can be shared around school. Peer pressure can easily lead to bullying. Your kids know these things and yet they so often fall into the trap of taking part in this kind of inappropriate messaging. Therefore monitoring your child’s messages – both what they send and what they receive – will enable you to reinforce what you have taught them all along:
They should be speaking and behaving appropriately at all times, no matter who they are talking to or how they are communicating.
2. Look who’s talking
It’s not unreasonable for parents to want to know who their children are communicating with. It was easy back in the day when friends had to call each other via a landline and declare to the person picking up the phone who they were and why they were calling. That ease of knowing who our children are communicating with has long since disappeared. Kids exchange numbers and IDs with each other and with strangers without a second thought. These days we’re all aware of the dangers posed by online predators – those who befriend our children online with sinister intent. But what about those text messages going back and forth between your daughter and that boy you said was too old for her? What about the messages your son is exchanging with a group of boys who you think are a bad influence on him? As parents we should be guiding our children in their relationships and the choices they make. Monitoring their messages can help with this important aspect of parenting.
Constant text messaging provides a great distraction from the real world – from schoolwork, homework, outdoor pursuits and socializing. It can even distract from other screens! (Who hasn’t seen a person texting at the same time as supposedly watching a movie?) Many youngsters today are addicted to texting. Like gamblers, they feel the compulsion to check for new messages constantly. They lose sleep, have problems focusing on other things and lie to cover up their behavior. All these can have a negative impact on academic performance, as well as the ability to socialize and communicate face-to-face. It’s a good idea to set some boundaries when you provide your child with a mobile device. Make sure that there are periods when the device is switched off and check incoming and outgoing messages regularly to see if your child is sticking to the rules.
Many youngsters today are addicted to texting…[it] can have a negative impact on academic performance, as well as the ability to socialize and communicate face-to-face
4. Sleep deprivation
There is no magic number regarding the amount of sleep children need, but most pediatricians, as well as the National Sleep Foundation, recommend 8 ½ to 9 ½ hours of sleep per night for 10 to 17 year olds. However, with the use of mobile devices on the rise, studies have shown that many teenagers are falling short of this target. The National Sleep Foundation found that 87% of US high schoolers are missing out on the recommended amount of sleep and this figure is rising. Many teenagers take their phones into their bedrooms at night and don’t switch them off when they are sleeping, meaning they often wake up when the beep of the phone signals an incoming message. The compulsion to send and reply to messages at all hours is contributing to this problem, with many parents blissfully unaware. Want to know why your child looks like a zombie in the morning? Checking the times of incoming and outgoing messages could be a good way to find out!
5. Building trust
We all want what is best for our children. We want them to be happy, considerate people who can function well at school and in society as a whole. We want them to be safe, whether they are outside playing, or communicating with each other on their phones. Monitoring your child’s messages is an important means to keep them safe, set boundaries and teach them how to behave. When you give your child a mobile device, let them know what your expectations are and tell them why you have decided to check up on their messages. Having an open and honest conversation with your child can only help to build the trust so crucial to raising kids in the digital age.
Having an open and honest conversation with your child can only help to build the trust so crucial to raising kids in the digital age.