Text message etiquette

It’s the fifth day of the new year and already time seems to being flying by. This Monday morning my girls have returned to school and the question hot on their agendas, along with their friends is “What did you get for Christmas?”. Wait a minute it’s a new age, for those close friends that information was exchanged during the past two week’s vacation via text messaging. I haven’t really mastered the text messaging, I’m slow, it’s cumbersome, and it takes too long. My youngest daughter reminds me I have a dinosaur phone. (Since I was born in 1404 what does she expect?) What I’ve noticed about text messaging is those who text have little respect for people around them. Last week my eldest daughter had a friend stop by and during the visit my daughter played Sims and Pop Sing Star while her friend pretended to play, but was more engaged in a text message conversation with a friend. She laughed and shared the joke with my daughter (who was not impressed at all).

That same daughter will sit at the dinner table with her Voyager, ready to respond. More often than not, I have to repeat the rule: “no texting at the table, it’s family time.” However, for the new year I have to enforce one of the new parental behaviors that Dr. Kevin Lehman stresses in his book, Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change Your Child’s Attitude, Behavior & Character in 5 Days, don’t threaten, follow through. In other words, the next time she thumbs messages during a family mealtime, I calmly confiscate the phone for the rest of the evening and say without anger or annoyance in my voice “You cannot have the phone for the rest of the evening, you did not follow the rules”.

This book is informative, easy to read, accessible to parents with kids of any age from terrible twos to still at home thirty-twos, and tough on parents. Yet I must say, I no longer threaten, I just enforce. One of my worst habits was to give sixth grader three warnings to get up and get ready for school. Now, she gets one warning or suffers the consequences: arriving to school late or staying home to clean the house. On days we leave the house simultaneously, or I leave minutes before her, she sends me a text message to let me know she’s on the bus. Of course this is good, yet leads to unacceptable texting:

  • Sending a text message to a parent, or anyone, while they are, or you are, driving is dangerous.
  • Composing a message while in a face-to-face conversation with someone is as rude as taking a voice call.
  • Sending or reading a text message in class, impolite.
  • Delivering bad news by text.
  • Expecting someone to read a text that’s more than 160 characters, make it short and sweet.
  • Using indecipherable codes or messages that can be misinterpreted.