Texting Rules for Teens and Parents

Posted August 9, 2011 by

Photo of barbaragreenberg

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!


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 http://www.talkingteenage.com.

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  1. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor Report

    To CW: You ask some difficult questions. As you know, once trust has been compromised, it’s not easy to rebuild. It takes time. Speaking realistically, I am not sure it’s possible for you to rebuild the trust that has been lost with your son before he goes to college. Going to college is a big transition, and transitions like this can cause kids’ problem solving skills to really break down. I’m not sure if the marijuana use relates to that at all, and I’m also not sure that going heavy on the consequences here is going to help your son learn what he needs to change his behavior. What you might do is require him to participate in regular counseling at his school’s counseling center to address the substance use and the challenges his transition presents. You could tie his cell phone access to his attendance. For example, you go see the counselor this week and you get your phone. If you don’t go see the counselor, you don’t have your phone this week and you can try again next week. Aside from that it will be important for you to be clear about what the expectations are while he is at school so that he can regain full privileges when he comes home to visit. For example, what will he have to do to be able to use the car when he’s home, or maybe be able to take the car back to the campus with him? It is not necessary to take away any other privileges. After all, it’s not the size of the consequence that’s important; it’s the emphasis on learning new skills that we are looking for. I am including an article about trust for more information. We wish you and your family luck as you move through this transition together. Take care.
    Risky Teen Behavior: Can You Trust Your Child Again?

  2. Super Parenting Report

    Looking for the brighter side of cellphone/texting. Sometimes this kind of technology maybe one of the way to express your feelings to your family. And discuss ti personally.

    Regarding this issue, parenting strategy may affected by the technology. However you have an option to go for modern parenting to become better parents while adopting new technology.

  3. CW Report

    My 18 yr old son, leaving for college in 1 week was just caught smoking weed by the police with 4 of his so-called good friends througout high school. He’s never had any other issues. He’s a scholar-athlete at the highest levels and expected to do well in college on both ends. Although the police could’ve arrested my son and his friends, they elected to release them to their parents. Evidently, after lengthy discussions, we confirmed that he had just started smoking after graduation this summer and has done it up to 10xs as he really doesnt recall. With the many things we can do (already took car away, provided his password to facebook), we’re struggling with other things like cell, texting, email and laptop communication devices as those would be normally necessary useful tools going to college. What would be a good measure to take with these items?

    Concerned that there isnt enough time in our presence before going off to college to establish processes and resources to allow him to work off-so to speak the consequences of his action and to build up the trust that has been lost. How can this be done before and after he leaves to be on his own in college? Thanks for your time and response.

  4. mdboerner Report

    Cell phones should be banned for teens in high school. The telephone in the office has worked for decades. It still does. Cell phones are a deterrent to learning. Even when off.



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