10 Ways To Protect Your Texting Kids

2. Encourage Face-To-Face Communication.
These days, teens rarely use cell phones to talk; they rely on texting as their main form of communication. That means they're sacrificing valuable inter-personal connections. And that can stymie the development that comes from practicing such skills. Teens don't have the chance to learn the necessary socialization that helps them make good choices. Without the body language cues they'll get from face-to-face interaction, "kids are losing that sense of listening to their gut about whether this person is good for me to be in a relationship with," Lapidos says. Some teens even break up with boyfriends and girlfriends over texts, just so they can avoid that uncomfortable conversation. "It becomes an easy out," she adds.

Teens need to experience the angst of going through these romantic and friendship relationships. Kelley Riley of Shelby Township, Michigan, the mother of an 18-year-old daughter and 15-year-old twin girls, says "What concerns me is that teens are losing the ability to actually communicate with each other." Recently, her girls wanted to say goodbye to a friend who was moving, but several hastily worded texts led them to believe they couldn't head to the friend's house one last time. A quick phone conversation could have made the rendezvous happen more easily and avoided misunderstanding.

"I think the kids forget that there are feelings you convey in an actual conversation, or worse, they use texting as a way to avoid conversation," Riley said. She was also concerned when one of her daughter's friends came to her birthday party and spent the entire time texting her boyfriend, with the phone in her lap under the table. She never participated in any of the "live" conversation. When Riley asked her what she was doing, she wasn't at all ashamed to say she was texting her boyfriend. Riley used that exchange as an opportunity to let her girls know that such behavior was rude and they shouldn't engage in it.

O'Keeffe said that texts are best limited to quick messages like, "I'm running late." For meaningful conversations, urge your kids to pick up the phone or, better still, visit friends in person. "Texting shouldn't replace real conversation." This is especially true for family gatherings. Molly MacDonald, the mother of five, recalls a recent Thanksgiving dinner where her children appeared to be in a "prayer" position at the table. She assumed they were giving thanks, but was appalled to discover they were texting each other—even though they were sitting at the same table. Needless to say, she quickly took their phones away.

NEXT: Learn Your Child's Language >>

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