Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mobile Meanness

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I was watching TV when my phone buzzed, signaling a text message.

Can u drive me to the mall plz?

The text was from my teenage daughter. My daughter who was sitting five feet away from me. To say the way we communicate has changed since I was a kid is a huge understatement. Yes, the amount of technology at our (and more importantly, at our children’s) fingertips can be overwhelming and scary. Stories of teens committing suicide, or being beaten over mean texts they’ve received flash across the news. It’s enough to make parents think twice about letting their sons and daughters have cell phones at all.

I don’t personally think that taking phones away from kids is the answer. But giving your teen a phone and turning them loose with no supervision isn’t a good idea either. Texting can be a great communication tool. Texting lets parents and their children stay in touch, it’s a convenient way to ask your spouse to pick up a gallon of milk on his way home from work, and it helps you to avoid hour-long conversations with that one long-winded friend everyone seems to have.

But, as with anything good, there’s a bad side too. The way to avoid the negative aspects of texting is by communicating with your teens about what’s appropriate and acceptable and what isn’t. It’s your job to talk to your teens about being mean to others through texting. There have always been bullies; this is nothing new, but texting gives the bullies a new, more anonymous, way of ganging up on others. Make sure your kids know that they should never text anything that they wouldn’t say to someone’s face. I tell my kids that if they’d be embarrassed if I saw a text they sent, then they probably shouldn’t be sending it. Likewise, if they’re ever on the receiving end of mean texts, they need to confront the sender face to face. Oftentimes, texts can be misunderstood and if there’s ever a problem, it’s best to talk about it in person to avoid further miscommunication.

Texting can be a great way of communicating if you keep a few things in mind. Explain what’s expected of your teens, set boundaries, discuss stories in the news of kids who have been the victims of bullies, and repeat your talks about treating others with respect in all areas of communication. Oh yeah, and maybe get a text to English dictionary so you have a clue what your kids are talking about when they write "MMK" or "@TEOTD".

Have your kids experienced "Mobile Meaness"? What have you done to help them respond if they experience it? Each comment left on this post benefits with a $0.50 donation!