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Texting Rules for Teens and Parents

Posted by Barbara Greenberg, PhD

The other day while I was driving I noticed that the car in front of me was slowing down. I passed it and saw that the driver was an adult woman with two teenagers. The woman appeared to be texting while driving. She was putting all of us near her on the road at risk.  Was her text really as important as our collective safety?

And, coincidentally, a 14-year-old boy emailed me on my website, Talking Teenage, this week and said that he was furious with his father for texting while driving him and his friends around. He is aware that it compromises their safety.

That got me thinking about the rules of texting. Here are some of the ideas that I came up with. Do you have any more?

1. Driving and texting are never okay for parents or teens. If it’s an emergency, then pull over.

2. Don’t text or check text messages in the midst of a conversation. You dislike it when your teens do this, so practice what you preach. As always, remember that modeling appropriate behavior is key. You want to model being present and attentive.

3. Your teens want to hear from you but be wary of excessive texting, particularly when they begin college.

4. Think before sending your text message. Remember that neutral messages are often perceived as negative.

5. Be clear regarding the times during which texting is acceptable. For example, do you allow your teens to text during dinner?

6. Important messages should always be delivered face-to-face if possible! Consider the pain of a boyfriend breaking up with you via text message.

7. Don’t send a text that you wouldn’t want to receive.

8. Ask yourself if you would say the same thing in person.

9. What you intend to send to one person may easily end up on the screens of many. Be mindful that your texted messages and photos can be forwarded.

10. It is not good manners to text while with a group of friends. It may make others feel excluded and is simply not polite. If it’s an emergency, that is, of course, a different ball of wax!


About Barbara Greenberg, PhD

Barbara is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents. She is the co-author of Teenage as a Second Language-A Parents Guide to Becoming Bilingual with Jennifer Powell-Lunder PsyD and the co-creator of the website

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