Texting: Connecting Teenagers & Parents?

If you are a parent of a teenager, do you use text messaging as a means of communication with them? Are you concerned about how your teens use their mobile? Should your teen be concerned about how you use your mobile?

Research conducted by TRU Research and sponsored by LG was noteworthy for what it revealed about parental texting behaviours and assumptions.  Despite claims by respondents that texting brought families closer together it is worth considering the results closely.

The study was conducted online within the United States amongst 1,017 teens and 1,049 parents of teens. Of the parents surveyed 75% consider themselves “texters” and 86% of those texters  (or  65% of parents surveyed)  claim to have communicated with their teens via text messaging.

Consistent Behaviour

Despite the extensive coverage that has been given to the unhelpful behaviours of teens and texting the survey reveals that bad texting behaviour is not just attributed to teens. The results demonstrate both parents and teens participating in the following mobile behaviour:

  • 28% of parents admit to engaging in some form of “sexting” and 43% of teens admit to doing the same.
  • Almost half of all parents and teens surveyed admit to texting and driving.
  • 42% of parents admit to texting someone while at the dinner table; whereas 69% of teens admit to texting at the dinner table.
  • 38% of parents admit to texting during the middle of the night; whereas, 83% of teens admit to texting during those hours.

Given that teenagers are quick to pick up on any inconsistencies, parents do not help their appeals for good mobile behaviour from their kids if they are undermining their words with their own actions.

Communication Gap

You know what they say about assumptions! The survey revealed that many parents are overly generous in their assumptions about how well behaved teens are with their phones.

Of those surveyed:

  • 45% of teens admit to texting and driving. And only 4% of parents believe their teens ever text while driving.
  • 43% of teens admit to putting someone down or insulting them in a text, while only 10% of parents believe their teens had ever participated in this type of hurtful behavior.
  • 41% of teens admit to sending, receiving, or forwarding a text that said something sexual, while only 11%  of parents thought their teens had ever sexted.
  • 52% of teens admit to checking someone else’s texts or having had their texts checked by someone without permission, while only 8% of parents thought their teens had ever participated in this behaviour.

This rose coloured view of ones own children is nothing new.  The results provide yet another sobering reminder of the potential pitfalls of parental bias.

Texting Bringing Families Together?

According to the researchers the results suggest texting brings families closer together.

  • 90 % of texting parents felt closer to their teen as a result of the medium.
  • 42 % of parents said that texting increased the frequency of communication between parent and teen.
  • 58 % of teens said being able to text their parents made them feel closer.
  • 83 % of teens prefer their parents check in with them via text.
  • 68 % of all texting parents agree that communicating via text makes them more comfortable when their teen is out.

While the research sponsors (a mobile phone company) suggested that texting benefits family communication and feelings of “closeness,”  there could be other ways of interpret the results.

For parents who may have little communication without text, some communication may better than none.  Likewise is it any surprise that teens would rather parents make contact via text rather than a voice, it is a much more controllable means of communication from the teens point of view.

What are  your experiences of texting and connecting with your teenager?

Image by Clare & James
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