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Archive for October 6th, 2009

To Text or Not to Text

As we prepared lunch this afternoon my husband asked whether he should make a sandwich for our fifteen year old son.Teen texting

“I don’t know, text him and ask ,” I said.

“Text him?  Where did he go?”

“He’s in his room upstairs.”

Such is life with the teenager.  I could yell up the stairs for ten minutes before my voice registered in his teenage brain but the slight vibration of his phone gets his attention every time.

My husband recently read an article in the Washington Post about parents who text their teenager as their only means of communications.  I didn’t read the story before he threw the paper out but his take on the subject was that texting as a parental means of communication is a bad thing.  I respectfully disagree.

Several years back a dear friend gave me a bit of advice about raising a teenage son.  She said it is a parent’s responsibility to find ways to relate to their child.  Pay attention when they go on about their video games or the latest argument with a friend on the soccer pitch. Ask them who they had lunch with at school each day.  Even go so far as to listen to their music.  I took this information to heart and have not regretted it for a moment.

The first step in my quest to relate more closely to my son was having him load my iPhone with his music.  I take my iPhone with me on my run and listen carefully to the same music he listens to.  To be sure that I am getting the same music, I borrow his on occasion.  Though Drowning Pool and Avenged Sevenfold may not have been my first choice for my run, I find that for the most part I do enjoy his taste in music.  But, when I don’t enjoy it, when I am offended by it, I tell him.  We talk about it and we discuss whether there is value in it or whether dumping it off of both our systems is in order.  Sometimes, when my argument is convincing, he does just dump it all together.  Sometimes, I find that he is right, it might not be my taste but he can remove it from my iPhone and keep it as part of his personal music library.  Even this small step of give and take has us speaking in a way we might not otherwise.

In addition to music, I decided to take a step toward understanding the sports that he enjoys. I have set up alerts to my phone to remind me when a game is going to start or when someone scores. If he comes home excited about his team winning, I can relate as I have watched the scores fly across my screen throughout the day.  My subscription to ESPN Magazine has us communicating in a completely different way as we fight over who gets the issue first.  Rick Reilly is a favorite for both of us and we could go on for hours with fodder from his latest article.

So, we do communicate in ways other than texting, but texting offers its own special form of communication.  He communicates with his best friends via text the same way I, as a teenager, communicated with mine by phone.  The fact that he will text me puts me a leg up on my mom.  There is no way I would have taken the time to chat with her by phone as a teen.  Facebook and Twitter have both opened new avenues as well.  We share information we may never have thought to share – stories from the news, fan pages for products we both like, even political views.  We discuss things we may have never discussed.

Years ago my sister-in-law told me that the best way to have a real conversation with a teenager is in the car or doing laundry.  If you aren’t sitting face to face, they will have an easier time opening up.  Texting and Facebook are much the same thing.  They give my son an opportunity to open up about things he might otherwise clam up about.  They give him a chance to think about what he is going to say before he says it.  And it works that way for me as well.  There have been several mornings when I have come downstairs to find a book or a lunch still sitting on the table after he has left for school and as I started a snide text message to remind him that this is an inconvenience for me, I realize how it is going to sound and change it to something lighter and less judgmental while still getting the point across.

If texting were our only way of communication I might be concerned but as it is an addition to the lines of communication we have created, I am not.  As it is a language that young people speak fluently, I am glad to be a part of it, to be let into the club and be part of his life in a way that was not available to my parents.  As a parent, it is my responsibility to relate to my son and to create ways in which he can relate to me.  If that is through texting then so be it.

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