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How many minutes should I let my children text?

July 6th, 2011

A parent asked me this question: “Our cell phone plan allows unlimited texts, but I think our 8th grade son is overdoing it with over 3000 minutes a month. What should I do?”

First of all, check his phone and make sure there are no inappropriate texting of words and pictures, or with strangers. Be sure he is talking only to friends that you know.

For most kids nowaday, texting is a way of life. But if you think your son is texting excessively, I am guessing you’ve tried all different methods to get him to limit his texting with threats and bribes. So before you continue to try to “fix” this texting issue, I would venture to guess there are more issues in his life than just texting. Consider these areas of his life that may be affecting his texting habits:

1. Does your son have too much time on his hands? As they say, “Idleness is the devil’s workshop.” He could simply be bored and defaults to texting with nothing else to do. A young man needs to be active, not just to get energy out, but to get that teenage angst out of his system. If your son is not into team sports, sign him up for something like fencing or karate. I found a tennis instructor to give my son private tennis lessons because he didn’t like the usual soccer, basketball, or Little League. How about signing him up for a 5K or 10K, and train with him? Having a goal is a good way to get him to get out.

2. Does your son have enough social outlets? Kids need real time face to face contact with friends rather than hiding behind the screen of texting. Who are the friends that he texts? Invite them over to play video games (under your supervision), go swimming, or to the movies. Your son can also join service clubs at school and other extracurricula activities that allow him to interact with real people. Maybe texting is a way to fill his loneliness, and making friends and spending more time with friends will help fill a void.

3. Is your son showing signs of rebellion in other areas of his life? If you set a limit on his texting and he does not obey your rules, it may be his passive-aggressive way of saying, “You can’t tell me what to do!” Since your son is only about 13 or 14, he’s still young enough where you still have a strong influence him. The way to tackle rebellion is counter-intuitive. Instead of clamping down on him more, I suggest you spend more time giving him blessing and encouragement. Go out to do some fun things together. Ask where he wants to go and what he wants to do. Allow him to bring a friend. You don’t have to be in-your-face with him all the time, but just being there, going places together, giving him positive words will make a difference. You will not see immediate results, but in the long run, I know he will respond.

4. Is your son’s texting becoming an addictive habit? If so, I would set an electronic-free day once a week to break the habit. For example, every Sunday there will be no texting, no iPods, no TV, no computer. This applies to every member of the family, including parents! Go out for a day of bike-riding, a movie and dinner together, build a birdhouse…you get the idea. This will accomplish #3 as well, two birds with one stone.

If none of the above applies to your child, and if your child is well-behaved, involved in outside activities, have friends who are a good influence, exhibits positive attitudes, and obeys you in other areas of his life, than I say, do not choose the texting hill to die on. If he is always a good kid, then fighting on this one issue will drive a wedge between you that closes up the good relationship that you have with him. If you do not see any red flags that may indicate other areas of his life that needs to be addressed, then accept the fact that texting is a way of life for kids nowadays. After all, you have unlimited texting on the phone plan, you are willing to pay for it, so he is merely using it to keep himself occupied.

However, I suspect that you need to consider one or all three of the above questions. When you get to his heart, he will respond better to your rules of texting.

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  1. Thanks for addressing this question. I say that Cell Phones are like Chainsaws! They can be dangerous if use incorrectly.

    Guidelines and rules of “no txt” are important. Text is good though we have to support our kids to engage in the face-to-face.

    Set up some parameters, such as, no texting at dinner or meal times, no text after 8:00pm or whatever works for you.


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