Newsletter Signup

emailEnter your email address to receive our FREE weekly parenting newsletter
  View Email Archive

Latest blog Posts

Texting: The New Way for Kids to Be Rude

by James Lehman, MSW
Texting: The New Way for Kids to Be Rude

“ My 14 year old daughter is a texting addict! She will even sit and text when our family is at a restaurant. It drives me nuts. If I tell her to stop, she just does it under the table. It’s like this little secret that we can’t be in on, plus it’s just plain rude. It’s as if half of her is here with us, but her brain is somewhere off with her friends. The thing that really annoys me is that she doesn’t take part in family activities any more—it’s like she has to have a special invitation to participate. What should we do?”

Many kids will react negatively when you start to set limits on their texting or cell phone activities, but if you stick with the plan, they will eventually respond and comply with your familyís rules.

Teens and pre-teens have the mindset that their friends are the only ones who understand them. Many kids feel much more whole as a person when they’re with their peers. So basically, like the parent describes above, they will probably text as much as they can. Think of it from their perspective: it’s fun, it’s immediate gratification—which kids love—so it’s also self-reinforcing. That means that when they text, our kids get a reward right away in the form of a response from their friends, and so it encourages them to do it again right away, and get another reward.

So how do you curtail your child's texting habit and make sure they’re participating in your family’s activities? And how do you keep them from using texting as another way to be rude? I recommend that you have times in your family when there is no text messaging. For example, you can say that from 6~7 p.m. at night, there is no texting allowed. Don’t let your child have his or her cell phone on them at all times. Say things like, “If we go out to the movies, you have to leave the phone at home.” Set strict guidelines around texting—and stick with them. Don’t over-explain your reasons, just say, “You are a member of this family and you have to participate during these times when we’re all together. No questions.”

Know ahead of time that kids overreact to things being taken away from them. Parents, in turn, are often afraid of getting into a power struggle with their children. The bottom line is that many kids will react negatively when you start to set limits on their texting or cell phone activities, but if you stick with the plan, they will eventually respond and comply with your family’s rules.

Enter your email address to receive our FREE
weekly parenting newsletter.

James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to "empower parents."


My 15 y/o twin boys consistently and intentionally miss dinners with teh rest of our family. They will eat before or after but not with us. I identified with the part of this article that sets a specific time where the child is not allowed to text and forced to socialize with the family. I am thinking a mandatory family dinner time would be useful in my house.

Comment By : chrismti

Hi James, Great article! I agree that kids overreact when things are taken from them. One thing that I kept wondering - Who's paying for their cell phones anyway? I enjoy your clear writing. Jean

Comment By : Jean Tracy, MSS

This texting thing has gotten so out of control. Why do parents get their kids these unlimited texting plans?? After talking to them I hear them say things like " well they have nothing else to do---or if they weren't texting they would be on the computer". I am shocked to hear these kinds of things out of parents mouths these days. It is like a babysitter for their kids----or something for the kids to do so the parents don't have to spend time with them. It is sad I think. Is it allowing kids to learn self control? I think not. I have 2 teenagers, they are both quite different. One WANTS to text--the other could care less about it. The one that wants texting was making some real poor choices for herself all through 10th grade---so texting was totally turned off her phone. After a summer of growing up and making better choices for herself we decided to atleast allow incoming texts and if she chose to call her friend then she could do so. However she decided to go ahead and text anyway one month. She sent 400 texts at .25 a piece--I will tell you it kind of stung when she had to write that $100 check out for that bill. We have now told her that she can text us if she needs something----but other than that if someone texts her and wants to talk she is to go ahead and call them back and use her mouth not her fingers to carry on a conversation. Is she unhappy with us? yes she is for the most part----cuz all her friends have unlimited. We believe there are much better things to do than sit around on your duff watching tv and texting. Our kids' cell phones sit on the counter at home---when they go somewhere that they need to use it--it goes with them, otherwise it stays home. I have found that with kids being raised in this way with texting----they will text something to a person that they would NEVER say over the phone using their mouth or say to someone in person. It is almost like they can say whatever they want and not be held accountable for it. In a few years we will have a large group of people on our hands that don't have a clue of how to carry on a conversation, are people even thinking about that aspect of texting? Parents need to take back the control. Yah little Johnny or Susie might get mad at you---but then you have a chance to teach them a good way to handle their frustrations. I wish more parents would set limits on phone useage with kids, wish we could all get on the same page----woudln't that make life with teens a breeze? :) Put your foot down parents!! Stick up for the school rules that says NO CELL phone use in school---that means texting too---get detailed billing and actually look it over---if your kids are texting during school time? Have consequences for that. How can kids be learning in school if they are so preoccupied with figuring out how to sneakily text people? Think back............would your own parents of allowed this to go on? hhhmmmm.

Comment By : Betty

Maybe I am missing the boat here. To chrismti. Where do your boys get the food before or after. Do you run a resturant? Dinner is served when dinner is served. Our home is not a cruise ship that has different "seatings". To Mom in above story. Family time is indeed for being a opart of the family. No cell phone in public places where others may need to interact with the child. Who pays the cell phone bill? Rules and boundaries. Many parents are afraid of pissing off there kid. Kids need to know that parents are in charge because you love them and as parents we need to explain ourselves (most of the time) so the kid can have rationale, this helps them to not only understand but is a very valuable teaching tool for when they have kids too.

Comment By : R36464

This may be wrong, but it has really worked for our family! It has even brought us closer together! Remember the old saying...if you can't beat them join them! This is one of those battles and examples! We were having the same problem with our daughter, at the time she was 16, we tried everything! Nothing just caused fights and arguments. My husband and I talked it over, but we were at a stand still. He was against it, and I was for it. So...we eventually agreed to get a cell phone. My phone has unlimited texting, which is basically used to communicate with our daughter. If I need her to do something, I text her. If I want her to come home at a certain time, I text her. At night, before she and I go to sleep we text each other to say "I love you". We text over everything. When she went homecoming dress shopping with her friends, she texted me pictures of the dresses! This texting thing has brought us closer together, and there are times when I just don't have time to text her, and she will text ME because she wants me for something. It has drastically improved our household, too. No more fights over when it is okay, and when it is not. If we go out to eat or do a family activity, she has to have her phone on silent. She is not allowed to answer the text until time's up. That way she doesn't feel like we are telling her she CAN'T communicate with her friends. It is just that NOW is not appropriate. It is now becoming a habit with her, and if we are sitting at home having a family meal, she will silence her phone. She is even silencing it for family meetings, which is something we never asked for! It seems that the more we forced the issue, the more she rebelled, but the more we got on board...the more complient she became! Our methods may not have been right for critics, but they worked for "OUR" family, and to me that is what was important...kind of the pick your battles thing!

Comment By : beckaroo1971

We have dealt with this texting issue in our family as well as any other family with kids these days. Cell phones were gotten for our kids in order for them to get ahold of us if they needed to when they were away from home. That was a couple years ago---however with the texting evolving as the only way to communicate these days(or atleast that is the impression kids have these days)---we learned we needed to take control of that. We have one teenager that WANTS to text instead of actually talking with her mouth, and then we have another teenager that could care less about texting. We allowed texting on their phones, even tried out a texting plan--the 250 text plan. However we found our daughter was so consumed with her phone then. Plus she spent her 10th grade of school making some poor choices for herself. Texting was then totaly turned off--she couldn't even get incoming texts. She had limited phone useage also at that point. After a summer of growing up and maturing we decided to turn texting back on so they could receive texts from people---and they could text us if they needed something important when they were away from home. however if they chose to text other people it would cost them .25 a text.They were told to call the person back rather than waste money on texting. They knew this fact. She decided to go ahead and text people back even if it was going to cost .25 a text. I have to say when the bill came it was pretty hurtful for her to write a $100 check for sending 400 texts that month. We explained to her that sitting there texting the same person back and forth for like 40 texts is rediculous, pick up the phone and call them and talk with your mouth. Kids these days seem to think it is ok to text something to someone that they would never dream of saying in a phone conversation or to a persons face---it is as if you text it you don't have to wait to see if it hurt the person you sent it to or not. No accountability there. I have talked to parents that get their kids the unlimited texting plans---they tell me their kids have nothing better to be doing. Either they are texting or sitting at the computer. I just think that is so sad that they allow this to go on. Why not put your foot down---show your kids some limits--cuz they sure aren't learning limit setting with unlimited texting or computer use. Do our kids get frustrated with us when we tell them NO? Yes you bet they do--but give it a little time and they do come around to the limits you have set up for your family. I know that our own parents sure wouldn't have put up with what is going on in today's world with kids and cell phones. We all grew up just fine without all these bells and whistles. Maybe we need to get back to a simpler way of life. Find things for your kids to do----with both parents working outside the home these days--there has to be things for your kids to do in or outside the household. Parents need to take back the control in their homes. Setting a limit and then caving in is not teaching your child anything good what-so-ever. Show your kids you love them and set some limits for them. Unlimited cell phone use, computer use and texting is not a way to allow your child to learn self control. It gives them this sense of entitlement it seems. Don't get these things so your child has something to do and stays out of your hair. Too much of that going on too. Our kids cell phones sit on our kitchen counter at all times when they are at home. They take it with them when they leave if they are going to need to get ahold of us. Phones are off at 10:00pm for sure, with no calls after 9:00pm. We also have a 30 minute per call limit. They also have to be on the same floor as an adult when using any phone in our house. If kids need that much privacy when talking to a girl/boyfriend on the phone--maybe they are talking about things that just aren't appropriate. Don't get me wrong--we don't sit there and horn in on their conversations---but if we would happen to catch something that didn't sound right? We will then be able to talk to them about that. Do they like these limits? Of course they don't. But this is what we feel we need to do as responsible parents. They can either accept them or just not use the phone. That is their choice. Kids will not die without unlimited technology use today---even though they will desperately try to convince you of this. Empower yourself parents!! :) Have a Great Day!!

Comment By : Mom & Dad

We've experienced the same issues with our 15 year old daughter. Our cell plan now offers a service to restrict the time of day or night your child can use the phone for texting. If she can show us better self control, then maybe we will ease off, but I doubt it.

Comment By : tshop

I established rules for cell phones: no texting or phone calls during meals, church or after nidnight. It worked well until I discovered my 16 yr old daughter was making and receiving calls sometimes until 2-3 in the morning. After one warning and a reminder what the rules were I called the phone company and had the service temporarily suspended~ 3 days the first time and 7 the second time. Thats all it took, no repeats since. Same with my 17 yr old son, he whined, fussed and acted like I was the worst person ever. Before the 3 days were up he was agreeable and helpful. Again no repeats.

Comment By : Kathleen

Good grief, I'm so glad we can't afford a cellphone service like others. We have a pay as you go and when we feel like the kids need to have one, we will give them one of ours. I'm sure they must be terribly deprived, but they're not complaining and they're 13. I wonder how many kids in other countries with far more expensive cellphone plans have these little toys?? It's like the video games and things, too much of one thing is unhealthy. Too many adults also are addicted to their cellphones. Our pay as you go are just for emergencies and convenience, not great big long conversations while I'm out shopping or driving. Why do families have issues??? Some are self made I feel.

Comment By : khar59

I sit in disbelief over the "parents" who pay for phones for their kids, pay their kids phone bills - -then complain that they have somehow, mysteriously, "lost control" over how their kids spend their time on the cellphone -- be it texting or talking. You create the very problem that needs solving, then worry about "depriving" your kids of an instant-gratification device that is interfering with their family time, harming their ability to learn the English language, shortening their already limited attention spans & ability to problem solve & focus to zero, and increasing their proclivity to build and enhance a secret life? What are you people thinking? ARE you thinking? Are you also giving them porn or weapons, and will you also be sooo surprised that they will want to spend all of their free time engaged on those activities as well? Grow up. Be parents, not pushovers who are "afraid" to set boundaries for fear your kids won't "like" you. Stop using your kids as surrogate friends. Be parents & TEACH them worthwhile values in the very short time span you have to do so.

Comment By : Lilly

I would let them text, but make them pay for it either by sacrificing allowance, doing extra chores or even having a job and just taking over the bill. If they have a stake in it, they're less likely to abuse it.

Comment By : Silver Fang

Just yesterday I changed my cell phone plan and removed texting completely. I felt like I was losing my daughters and that one of them is/was addicted to texting. It's been rough for all of us, but I believe it will be worth it.

Comment By : Anonymous

My daughter just turned 12. Peer pressure and my need to stay connected with her forced me to purchase a cell phone and texting package for her. I am a single dad. She has had the thing for a week, we have been able to communicate with eachother, she has been obsessed with texting her friends to the point where last night, long past bed-time, I found her texting and talking with "someone" close to midnight. I took the phone away from her promising that I would return it today. While in my my hand late last night, I thought it would be a good idea to see what she has been up to. Fortunately for me, she was unable to delete the day's activities. I was shocked to see a conversation string between she and a boy where he was being explicitly sexually suggestive, spoke openly about drugs and alcohol and my daughter seemed to be encouraged by the discussion. I was horrified and disgusted by the what I was reading. This morning, my daughter demanded her phone back and quickly began verbally abusing me telling me how much she hated me, referred to me as "Creeping" on her and calling me as many names as she could. I told her that when she was calmer and felt like a conversation with me, I would be happy to do so. I explained to her that I was her father, and that it was my responsibility to protect her from many things. I went on to explained to her that I would hold on to the phone until I was satisfied that this situation was dealt with. My daughter has been brought up with strong family values, ethics and beliefs. Up until recently, we have had the pleasure of open and honest conversation with eachother. What all of a sudden has happened? As I write this, I am planning my very difficult discussion with this boy's father. At this point, I don't know what else to do. I will keep the phone in my posession until this is resolved. If I feel there will be no resolution, I will return the phone and MAYBE reconsider one for her when she is more mature to handle the responsiblility.

Comment By : Scared Dad

* Dear ĎScared Dadí: Youíre right. Itís your job as her father to set appropriate limits on your daughterís behaviors and to keep her safe when she puts herself in danger. It sounds like youíre making the right decision to hold onto your daughterís cell phone at this time. Twelve years old is still very young in many ways. It can be hard for kids to know how to handle someone who sends inappropriate text messages or pictures to them. Unfortunately, itís becoming more and more common for this to happen to kids. Some parents are solving this problem of keeping in touch with their kids by getting cell phones from providers that allow you to opt out of sending or receiving text messages, or getting phones that just permit calls to parents, the police, and phone numbers pre-approved by the parent. Donít be swayed by the argument that Ďall kidsí have cell phones and that Ďall kidsí text. This is not the case at all. If you decide itís time for her to try to use texting again, consider getting a program that lets you monitor her text messages. James Lehman, author of the Total Transformation Program, recommends being honest and upfront with our kids and telling them ahead of time that you will periodically be monitoring cell phone messages, emails and social networking computer sites. She is likely to object to the monitoring as an invasion of her privacy. Let her know you understand that it can feel that way, however, you want her to learn to say and write things that she would not mind others reading or hearing. Email and social networking information may not stay private; in fact, itís commonly forwarded to other friends without the prior permission of the person who wrote it. For more information on the issue of teen privacy, read this article by James Lehman: Teens and Privacy:Should I Spy on My Child? We appreciate your question and hope youíll keep in touch with us and let us know if we can be of further help.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

Call me crazy (people have) but I got my son an unlimited plan, he is 18 now, and I love it! It's such a convenience for us. I look at the details on the bill and he doesn't text at late hours or anything. We have to accept this form of communication! I am lucky that he is well-mannered about it, also.

Comment By : CT mom

Hey. I'm a 14 year old girl and I'm a Freshman in High School. I had REALLY bad problems last year and in 7th grade with texting. I had/have unlimited texting and I'd text anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 texts a month. It was crazy! I'd text in school' in church, at dinner; EVERYWHERE. I don't send as many texts anymore considering I have grown and I have real friends and I honestly don't have time to text! I'm trying to do something with my life. I have really bad joint problems from lifting in cheerleading and texting didn't help that one bit! My fingers hurt every waking moment of my life and I crack my knuckles all the time. Trust me. You'll kids will grown up someday and realize texting is not your whole life. Thank you. -Ali.

Comment By : aliluvsyou14

thank you to the above parents who commented on the article. I feel much better after a big blow out in our house last night. Both son and his girlfriend (A students" are carrying F's after becoming addicted to texting. It is over, and of course we have "ruined their lives." However I will stand strong and thank the other parents who told us that they did the same.

Comment By : praying

Rate this article by clicking the stars below.

Rating: 2.7/5 (166 votes cast)

Related keywords:

Texting, Sexting, Rude Teen Behavior, Text messaging

Responses to questions posted on are not intended to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.

We value your opinions and encourage you to add your comments to this discussion. We ask that you refrain from discussing topics of a political or religious nature. Unfortunately, it's not possible for us to respond to every question posted on our website.
If you like "Texting: The New Way for Kids to Be Rude", you might like these related articles: