Just over a year ago I wrote Teens and Texting and I was very appreciative of the input to my questions and the exchange that started on the post. A few comments addressed that texting is not just an issue and topic pertaining to teens, but for adults as well. A few comments also led to some points about self-regulation.
Recently I read Tim Elmore’s blog post, How Texting is Re-Defining Social Etiquette, and the comments in response to it. It reminded me that youth are still figuring out social norms that older age groups navigated and established in “pre-texting” times. I also thought about the different issues facing teens in addition to communication and connecting via their devices. They may be redefining social etiquette, but can it apply positively to all situations and relationships? For example, I took a quick poll around our supper table…. “Is it ever right to end a relationship by text message or email?”. From my older children: “No… unless the person is away in another country.” I appreciated Jane Mitchinson’s comment on that post and her specific thoughts to this,
Can you really say that being dumped by a text message shows a clear lack of empathy? What is the alternative? Can you really assume it would be face to face communication? I’m going to play devil’s advocate here for the sake of making my point. Have you thought of the possibility that the alternative may have been the dumpee showing up in a public place to find the dumper already with someone else? Maybe texting affords the dumper a new communication choice by allowing him or her to land on the “courtesy” side of the fence, rather than not communicating at all. Alternatively, the type of communication selected by the dumper tells us more about his or her capacity for expressing empathy than may have been otherwise apparent.
A survey of 1,500 daters aged 21 to 50 revealed the following regarding breaking up via text:
- 59% would or might break up with someone they are casually dating via text
- 24% would or might end an exclusive relationship that way
Tim Elmore’s post also suggested that communication by texting may affect the development of “soft” skills. If soft or social skills are undeveloped, does the opportunity to text message help or hinder personal growth in communication and interpersonal skills in a significant way? Here are some interesting findings from another survey:
•Approximately one-third of men (31%) and women (33%) agree it’s less intimidating to ask for a date via text vs. a phone call.
•One in four say an hour is the longest acceptable response time to a text to someone you are dating or interested in dating; one in 10 expect a response instantly or within a few minutes.
•More men (44%) than women (37%) say mobile devices make it easier to flirt and get acquainted.
Another post which helped connect some of my thoughts on this was, What Can We Learn From Failure, by Peter DeWitt. He covered some good points about failure and touched on the impact of social media. He also referred to an article about investigations into resilience (Cicchetti, 2010) which suggested a list of factors associated with resilient functioning:
“The factors associated with resilient functioning: a) close relationships with competent and caring adults in the family and community; b) self-regulation abilities; c) positive views of self; d) motivation to be effective in the environment (i.e., self-efficacy and self-determination); and e) friendships and romantic attachments with prosocial and well-regulated peers” (pp.6 & 7).
All the factors had me reflecting in terms of parenting and digital communication, particularly (e) friendships and romantic attachments with pro-social and well-regulated peers. As a parent, supporting my children to be pro-social and well-regulated, as well as looking for that in others, has been very important. Although my children didn’t have smart phones for texting until they were older teens, in 3 years it has become a big part of their communication with friends of both genders and a few adults. I admit that there is a lot that I don’t like about it. It has often been an added strain on parenting and to supporting self-regulation. Through text communication on personal devices, access to people is very different and monitoring the interaction that children or teens will have with others is not always easy. As a parent, it can be very difficult to ensure that the people they text with are being pro-social and well-regulated. If they aren’t, it is possible to not know at all, even with fairly open lines of communication.
I think the years that our youth are developing into young adults are so important. I think I have been very open minded in the last few years and hopeful that more awareness and teaching about the proper use of devices would help ensure appropriate behaviour and social etiquette. Parents can still seem so overwhelmed with this guidance and struggle to establish consistent rules, as this article captures. Many educators advocate that schools can support in this regard, but I still worry about inconsistencies. As Jane and others also suggest, there is more than just the technology to address. There are plenty of great resources for both parents and teachers to teach digital citizenship, but where will those resources have their biggest reach and impact?
I hope readers can understand my concerns without further details of my experiences as a parent and what other parents share with me, but I admit that there are many days that I wish texting didn’t become such a big part of the way my teens started to communicate with peers. I get some reassurance from the monthly bill that their out-going messages are considerably less than the in-coming, at least. Is it possible ahead to be more proactive and consistent in guidance and intervene when necessary with this mode of communication that is so accessible? Much to think about in terms of resilience, self-regulation, and relationships, in my opinion.
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