Brenda in Missouri writes:
Do you think that setting actual time controls and limiting the number of text messages is too controlling for my sophomore daughter's texting? All her friends have unlimited texting with no controls. Brenda D.
Carla Barnhill's Advice:
Brenda, I have a few other thoughts as you decide what to do about your daughter's texting.
While texting is too new for there to be much research on its long-term effects, doctors are finding that heavy-duty texting can lead to problems like sleep deprivation and increased anxiety in teenagers—it's that fear of missing something I mentioned in the video clip. All that texting means less time doing things like reading, being outdoors, or just doing nothing—daydreaming has serious benefits for developing brains. Maybe you're seeing other problems as well--she's distracted during conversations or shutting you and others out because she's so focused on her phone. These are all legitimate reasons to put some limits around your daughter's texting, as challenging as that might be.
At the same time, this can be a great opportunity to help her start seeing the connection between responsibility and independence, a connection that's going to become increasingly important as she gets older. Let her know that the more responsibility she shows by respecting the texting boundaries you've set, the more freedom she'll have in other areas.
Keep in mind, too, that you need to be a role model when it comes to technology. If you're on Facebook all afternoon or on your phone non-stop, it'll be hard to convince your daughter that limits are important. It might be helpful to set up occasional "tech-free" hours during which everyone in the family agrees to ignore phones and laptops for a little while.
I'd also encourage you to talk to a few other parents. The chances are pretty good that at least a few of them feel the same way you do. You'll all be glad to know you're not the only ones trying to get some balance in your kids' lives.
Philip Van Munching's Advice:
Brenda, if you're worried that it's too controlling to set limits for your daughter, don't be. Limits are what we do as parents, you know? I can't tell you how many times I've heard the "all the other kids have one/are allowed to see the movie/are going to the party" declarations from my daughters…and just like when I used those same lines on my parents, they still aren't usually true.
Of course, there are plenty of parents who DO give in on just about everything – from curfews to limitless computer time to chore avoidance – as if they're afraid of hurting their kids' feelings, or of having their kids not like them. The thing is, our kids aren't supposed to always like us, or the limits we put on them. Though we love them unconditionally, our job isn't to be their friend, our job is to teach them…and we can't always do both things at once.
The reason you might want to limit texting is because it can have a way of eating into your daughter's obligations; schoolwork, chores and practice don't seem to be nearly as much fun as typing "omg," "ttyl," and "g2g" endlessly to friends. As adults, blowing off our obligations so that we can do the stuff we'd really rather be doing has consequences; our bosses and spouses tend not to put up with that kind of behavior, so we make sure we've done what we're supposed to before starting in on what we want to. How did we learn that? Our parents set limits on us…and though we didn't much care for it at the time, our parents taught us responsibility, which makes our adult lives better. I figure that's the least we can do for our kids.