Is texting helping or hurting your child’s happiness with friendships?

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Cyber safety for kids and families on TheFish103.9FM Family Morning Show

Photo: DLSimaging via Flickr

The Contra Costa Times recently published an article about how cyber communications impacts the quality of family life and friend relationships.  Appropriately entitled “High technology destroys the idea of family night” journalist Tony Hicks described a recent a Friday night with his family who were in the same room with various devices, which he calls “iKindlePadPodTouchPhone thingies,” and watching a movie when his middle school aged daughter came under cyber attack.

The article embraced “tongue and cheek” humor about how the bullying, which he calls drama, unfolded and eventually involved him and the parents of kids who lived many miles away. He was reflecting how these people many miles away disrupted his peaceful family night without the courtesy of doing it to his face and concludes that he will shut off the devices the next time he expects to have a peaceful family night.

For certain setting a time at the end of the day to turn off and turn in devices for the night is important to help children understand how to keep the technology from ruling and disrupting their world.

Of equal concern, however, is the fact that kids are not necessarily learning good social skills when they rely primarily on texting to resolve disputes.

The cyber attacks happen often because communications behind a screen make it easy to be mean, and to lose inhibitions and without self-restraint there is little opportunity for people to smooth over misunderstandings that lead to hurt feelings. I believe that over reliance on texting as the channel for communication encourages a surrender of personal power that can leave our children with many unhappy friendships marred by scars of offenses created when attempting to resolve conflict from behind a screen rather than face to face.

Along these lines, a recent study was reported in Mashable concluded that relying upon texting to resolve conflict in relationships breeds unhappiness.

Below are tips for conversations with your child about when texting is inappropriate

  • Make sure that you as the parent are using texting in a way that does not make your loved ones and friends feel “processed”. When you are expressing something from the heart to your child, find the time to make a face to face conversation, especially if you are not in agreement with what your child has said or done.
  • Ask your child about a time when they received a text that caused them to feel bad or have hurt feelings. Have him explain to you what he understood the text was trying to say. Did she ever get the bad feeling resolved?
  • Have your child make a list of the things that they would prefer someone tell them face to face or voice to voice, rather than in a text. Then ask them if they honor those same preferences with their friends.

The aim of these conversations is to encourage your child to be more mindful about how they communicate with their friends and family, and not allow the technology (or channel) to interfere with nurturing the relationship. Caring isn’t convenient. It is a commitment and it takes effort, and texting encourages us to make communication simply about being efficient. With loving relationships our message cannot be heard if it is not first perceived as caring.

(BMB-0085)

Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.

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