Teens and Texting: Where to Set Boundaries?

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It may come as a surprise, but texting does have its positive effects on teenagers.

Child playing with phone

Child playing with phone

Contrary to the common notion, it does not interfere with their spelling but instead improves writing skills and the overall level of literacy. Moreover, it can have wholesome effects on the teenage psyche, providing them with the additional channel to vent out their stress and giving an opportunity to communicate for introverted and socially challenged children that may feel uncomfortable making small talk face to face with their peers. However, there is always another side of the coin.


There are several issues connected with texting, from being uncivil, while texting without consideration of whether this is appropriate at the moment to putting one’s life in danger while texting and driving. These issues encompass the entire population, however, when it comes to teenagers, their scale is stupendous

Compulsive texting

The first thing that is specific to teenagers is unstoppable compulsive texting. There is no secret that texting or conversing through various instant message services is a preferred method of communication for the vast majority of adolescents. They chose it over the phone conversation or face-to-face interaction. Building the relationships with the peers is a paramount goal for the youth, so no wonder 11% of teenagers confess to sending and receiving over 200 text messages a day. However, when texting becomes compulsive, something ought to be done about it.

The signs of compulsive texting are similar to those of compulsive gambling – inability to cut down on the habit, lying about how much time the person spends texting, and sleep deprivation. It also can lead to decreased academic performance because of attention-span issues and inability to concentrate on the homework.



Insufficient amount of night sleep is a common problem of our time, but there is a growing phenomenon pertaining to teenage children – sleep-texting. Teens are inseparable with their smartphones and do not wish to part with them even in bed. If the device goes off during the night, a teenager reaches for it and answers the text being not fully awake, and does not remember doing so in the morning. The effects of this sleeping disorder are similar to those of sleepwalking – it’s disruptive and can lead to serious health issues and impair cognitive ability.

Texting and driving

Texting behind the wheel is among top causes of fatal car crashes, and teens have the highest rate of texting while driving among all drivers. There are several reasons why teenagers behave so recklessly and one of them is a false confidence they have in their own texting skills – after all, they even can do it while sleeping, why not while driving? The second reason is that they consider such conduct a social norm because while growing up they have been seeing adults casually do this very thing – texting and answering the phone calls while out on the road. Moreover, it turns out that nearly half of all texts and phone calls teens make behind the wheel are addressed to their parents.


Another variety of risky behavior that derives from texting is so-called sexting, which means an exchange of sexually suggestive text messages, explicit photos, and videos. Sexting became a buzzword lately in connections with headline-making cases of teenage suicides and child pornography charges. In many states, teenage sexting is still against the law (because it implies making the child pornography, even if the underage is the one who takes the photo), so both – the sender and the receiver of a sext may end up registering as sex offenders. However, even without such drastic legal ramifications, sexting can have devastating effects if one of the sexting partners violates privacy and forwards the revealing photo to friends and acquaintance.

What Can You Do?

Teens may be more tech-savvy than we are, but what they lack is maturity. It is a parental task to teach them moderation and reasonable limits, as well as to provide a positive role model.

Talk to your teens

You should teach your children how to use technology mindfully and avoid potential risks. Keep ongoing conversations about the possible consequences of texting behind the wheel, sexting, and compulsive texting, explain that your concern stems from the concrete facts – not only speculations and sheer desire to protect them.

Set the rules

To avoid adverse consequences of excessive or inappropriate texting your must have a set of clear rules concerning the usage of mobile phones. First restriction – no mobile phone while driving. If the vehicle is moving, the driver must switch the phone to the silent mode and put the device away to avoid any distractions. Second rule – no mobiles in the bedroom, at least not after the lights out. A good practice is to create a hub in a common room where all family members would leave their phones overnight to charge.

Be honest about sexting and its legal, reputational and emotional consequences. Even “ephemeral” services that destroy a message immediately after the view, do not guarantee privacy because everything can be saved via taking a screenshot.

You should also establish rules concerning texting during classes, dinnertime or real-life conversations. I reckon, no explanation is required there – such behavior is plain rude.


It is also advisable to monitor your child’s phone for appropriateness. Agree that you would go through your teen’s texts occasionally, to see whether they manage to keep it within the bounds of decency (or do not receive any objectionable texts from others for that matter). This will most certainly incite your teen to be more conscientious. If you find out that your child is being bullied or harassed in any way, you may want to learn how to stop unwanted texts from coming. Don’t forget about social media monitoring, too, because a lot of texting happens there these days.

Teenagers tend to be oversensitive when it comes to freedom and restrictions. Our job as parents is to set reasonable limits and provide a choice for them within these limits until they are mature enough to make their own responsible decisions


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