Kennedy: Wait, don’t send that text to your kid

Associated Press/File / What are the rules for parent-child texting?
Associated Press/File / What are the rules for parent-child texting?

When it comes to communicating, texting is about as old-school as banging out letters on a Smith Corona typewriter.

Dozens of times a day, most of us stop, type and blithely push "send."

There are plenty of other, arguably more sophisticated, ways we communicate: FaceTime, phone calls, emails, actual face-to-face conversations. Yet, most of us have settled on texting as our go-to communication channel.


Well, texting is efficient, unobtrusive and safer than conversations, as we are less likely to say something hurtful or impulsive. Just the act of thumb-typing a message gives our brains a few seconds to process and edit our words. If you "blurt" a text, it's an unforced error.

This makes texting especially good for inner-family messaging. Raise your hand if you text family members inside your house. (Both hands up, here.)

(READ MORE: New Tennessee law sets up 'Do Not Text' register)

With parents texting kids, the problem is knowing when enough is enough. As some schools move to limit cellphone use, it's no surprise that much of the pushback is coming from parents who have grown accustomed — some might say addicted — to texting their children.

With our 17-year-old son, I probably text him four or five times a day. Just quick questions: "Do you work after school today?" "What do you want for dinner tonight, pizza or a burger?"

With our 22-year-old son, who is a senior in college, one or two texts a weeks seems sufficient, unless we have urgent business. Anything more seems like surveillance by another name.

(READ MORE: So this is it; our firstborn is off to college)

I read a column this week in which the writer admitted to texting regular goodnight messages to a child who is in her 30s. The columnist seemed to know this was pushing boundaries, but couldn't help herself — until the child finally signaled her to stop.

Tuck in your 4-year-old child? Absolutely. But wish a 30-something sweet dreams every night? Nah.

I decided to write down my carefully considered beliefs for parent-child texts. Feel free to agree or disagree.

— Write your text, and then consider deleting the last sentence. I've noticed that I communicate in the first sentence and embellish in the last. Better to keep texts short and sweet.

— Don't have deep, emotional conversations by text. Maybe it's just me, but there are some subjects that seem to call for eye contact — or at least human voices. It's hard to be a good listener by text.

Plus, sometimes kids don't need to be helped; they just want to be heard. Long pauses in a text conversation cause anxiety, but sometimes silence amid drama is needed and is best accomplished face to face.

— Realize that some adult writing customs are what kids today call "cringey." I edit my texts for punctuation errors ... which is kid-cringey. I sign my texts, "Dad" ... double cringey.

Oh well, I embrace the cringe.

— Tell your kids to always, always text if they need help, but benign 2 a.m. texts to parents are like an adrenaline shot to our hearts. If you need me to Venmo you $100 for a textbook, ask yourself if it can wait until the morning.

— Text before you call. I remember when I was a kid, my parents' friends would sometimes show up at our front door unannounced. I predict that very soon it will be considered rude to telephone someone before asking for permission by text.

— Don't text your child if you know they are driving. If you tell your child to be safe and then intentionally text them on the road, you're just being a hypocrite.

Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645.

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