Teens and Group Texting

Maximum: 4

That’s how many friends I allow our boys to be with on a group chat.

Oh, I can hear and see all the comments on this one: She’s a bad mom…an unrealistic Mom…controlling Mom.

How about this one:  Boundary Mom.

This all started one weekend a few years ago when we did a random phone check with our oldest son’s phone.  Thankfully, he wasn’t on his phone to see the 300 plus text messages on a group chat (of 10) from the night before.  REALLY?  300 messages?  While I won’t get into the content, suffice it to say, it could have been kept between 2 of the boys, not all 10.  Had he seen it there would have been immediate anxiety and stress due to the sheer volume and speed when they all came in.

This is where the boundary line comes and how we should be supporting our children in setting such distinct lines.  This is what I tell my boys:  Not everyone needs to be “in the know” of your personal stuff.  You are not an open book.  You are entitled to privacy and you should be able to distinguish who you really want to share with.  Not every feeling, emotion, thought is a public service announcement.  There are very few things left that we can keep private in this world, what is it that you wish to keep to yourself?

You get it:  I am not a fan of group texts.  I constantly ask myself what my issue is with it and it’s two-fold, really:

  1. The constant “dinging.”  Don’t we have enough noise in our lives without all of this happening too?   And how incredibly distracting is this for our ADHD teens!  You might say, “Well, turn your phone to silent or turn it off.”  How realistic is that, though?  How many of us REALLY have our phones on silent each day?  Besides, if I turn my phone off, then I can’t talk to my clients and conduct my business.

On the teen front, when they get added to a group text, holy moly, the constant chirping of texts from all the participants is a non-stop chorus of unwanted music!

 

  1. It’s also the informality of it.  Perhaps I’m just old school.  I’d much rather hear from one or two people as it’s more personal and special.  I feel like this generation is not learning the skill of conversing and engaging because of group texting.  And my generation is losing it.  I came from the times of wrap-yourself-around-the-landline-phone cords where we talked to friends for hours (unless our neighbors were listening!).  Here I am slowly succumbing to this era of technology, torn between trying to help our sons see the importance of privacy, close friends, boundaries, conversing, whilst allowing them the freedom of navigating this technological frontier.

Need help with boundaries on group texting?  Here are a few words of advice:

Words of advice for group chats (whether you are 12 or 62):  

  • If the content of the conversation doesn’t interest you or apply, leave the group text conversation.

  • If you don’t know all the others in the group text, leave the conversation.

  • If anyone asks for your picture, leave the conversation.  

  • If there’s anyone threatening themselves or anyone on the group chat, tell your parents immediately.  

  • Often people will say things over text that they won’t say to your face…meaning name calling, bullying, gossiping, etc.  If that is negatively affecting you, leave the conversation.

  • Keep feelings and thoughts private and have enough confidence and respect for yourself not to share with everyone.

  • Ask yourself — Do you really need to keep up with all these friends’ affairs?  Isn’t that exhausting?  Use discernment on who and what you wish to care and know about – chances are it’s only a few chosen friends.

  • Don’t be ashamed to leave the conversation.  Be bold, be confident.  Who knows, there may be someone else on the chat who is feeling the same way.  

  • Keep your group chat to small number of people in the conversation.  Less is always more.

  • Think about how you might be affecting someone else on the chat by your comments and participation.

  • Don’t chime in and lose yourself and text something that is outside your character just because you get drawn into the conversation.  Nothing good comes out of compromised values.

  • Remember, what you say on text, stays on texts.  It cannot be taken back.  AND it can be easily shared.

Think about it like this:  if all the “friends” on the text conversation were physically around you face-to-face, what would you say, how would you act and would you even participate in the conversation?  Your behavior on group texting should mimic a face-to-face interaction.

With much GrADDitude, (and hopefully less “dinging and chirping”)

Kelly

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