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The cell phone representative looked over my account and asked if I had a teenager. “Of course I do,” I said, adding, “Why?”
Apparently my 14 year old sent out and received more than 9,000 texts last month. The shocked phone rep told me it was a new record, in her experience.
Uh oh. Apparently it’s time to be a parent over here in “GoodNCrazy” world.
My first thought was to either take away my daughter’s phone completely or put a block on her texting ASAP! My second thought was to contact my pal Mary Heston, a respected teen online and mobile expert.
Mary responded with words to the effect of “Slow down, Mama.” Remember, she said, teens do NOT communicate the way we did (or do). And while it’s strange for grown-ups to imagine sending hundreds of texts per week (or per day); it’s equally strange to them that we DON’T send very many texts.
I began breathing more deeply and slowly.
But still. Three-Hundred-Texts-Per-Day, folks!
Then, Mary’s next statement brought me down another notch. She told me to make the conversation with my daughter more about “increasing the quality—and not just about decreasing quantity—of texts.”
She was referring to all those: “k”, “jk,” and “lol” comments. I really had to think about this: The difference between creating a teachable talking point for a mother-daughter conversation, versus yelling at your kiddo for X, Y or Z (and getting nowhere).
Thanks to Mary my brain was in a much better parenting mode. I don’t want to police her phone any more than I want to police her grades or her afterschool activities at this stage of her life. I’d much rather she begin to grasp the “whys,” and then determine the changes that are needed.
Fast-forward to the same afternoon when I held her captive in a 15-minute drive-time chat. I explained that I had some bad news for her. And I simply stated that the previous month she texted so much that even the phone store rep was shocked. I shared the number (300) and asked if she was surprised by it. She was, a little.
I asked if she thought it was time for a few teen-changes. And then I began the conversation about amount of texts as they relate to “quality of conversation.”
She was completely open and, big surprise, I swear I didn’t see any eye rolling! She suggested time limits, including putting the phone down after 6 p.m. (instead of living in her pocket), and never texting after bedtime.
I tried to understand how many people she is communicating with (is it hundreds of texts between a few friends or a few texts with many different friends)? I asked more questions and tried to refrain from using an “accusatory-Mom” tone. I let her talk. (That’s a hard one for me.) And she surprised me with her responses and her suggestions.
We don’t have the situation under control yet, but we’re working on the issue as best we can. But not by enforcing strict rules and heavy-handed parent policies. Instead we’re doing so by helping her see where the normal limits should be (though who really knows?), and then following up daily for a while to be sure she can break her own habits and find a new level that is acceptable to her and to us.
She was hoping to get the hand-me-down smart phone I was in the store upgrading in the first place.
Yeah. Probably not anytime soon.