Tex­ting Tips for Kids

How to keep your chil­dren safe in the dig­i­tal age.

iPhone Life Magazine - - Contents -

Okay, so you've taken the leap and handed your child or teen a smart­phone. You may feel like you've made the big­gest de­ci­sion al­ready, but if you want to keep your child safe, you have many more de­ci­sions to make ahead of you.

I hear a lot of chat­ter about how to keep kids safe on so­cial me­dia (which is a crit­i­cally im­por­tant topic), but there's not as much guid­ance when it comes to one of the iPhone's sim­plest fea­tures: text mes­sages. Here, I'll touch on the five most im­por­tant things you and your child need to know when it comes to tex­ting.

1. Know the Num­ber

If your child re­ceives a text from some­one who is not saved in their con­tact list, the un­known num­ber will be dis­played on the phone rather than a name. This is prob­a­bly a harm­less sit­u­a­tion, but it's im­por­tant that your child con­firm the per­son's iden­tity.

Coach your child to save a per­son's con­tact in­for­ma­tion in per­son and then send a con­fir­ma­tion text to en­sure that they've saved the con­tact in­for­ma­tion cor­rectly. This is the best way to make sure that the num­ber be­longs to the right per­son!

2. Don’t Be a Group-Text Gate­keeper

Group texts are in­evitable. That said, it be­comes tricky to nav­i­gate the so­cial dy­nam­ics as peers are asked to join or are “kicked off” a thread. Coach­ing your child to avoid be­ing the one who adds or sub­tracts peo­ple from a group chat will help avoid drama. If some­thing is go­ing on in a group text that's un­com­fort­able for your child, they can de­cide to take the high road by opt­ing out.

3. Re­mem­ber, Tex­ting Is not Talk­ing

On a brain-behavior level, it's crit­i­cally im­por­tant for kids to un­der­stand the dis­tinc­tion be­tween talk­ing ver­bally and tex­ting. Talk­ing in­volves your voice. Tex­ting in­volves writ­ten text. As your child is com­mu­ni­cat­ing with you, take time to make this dif­fer­ence clear. Do­ing so will help your child de­velop an ac­cu­rate per­cep­tion of so­cial in­ter­ac­tions and avoid the trap of as­sum­ing a de­gree of close­ness or in­fer­ring mean­ings that may not ex­ist.

4. Keep Con­tacts Straight

Want to know how to cre­ate drama at the push of the send but­ton? Just mix up two peo­ple who go by the same name. For ex­am­ple, maybe you wanted to vent to Jake Thomas about what hap­pened at base­ball prac­tice but you ac­ci­dently texted Jake Wil­liams in­stead. Some­times slip-ups can be funny and some­times there will be se­ri­ous so­cial reper­cus­sions. The so­lu­tion is pretty sim­ple: Coach your child to keep their con­tact list in or­der by in­clud­ing ev­ery­one's first and last name (and any other notes that will help with or­ga­ni­za­tion).

5. Don’t As­sume Tex­ting Is Pri­vate

Ex­chang­ing texts with a friend may seem like a pri­vate, oneon-one in­ter­ac­tion, but that's sim­ply not true. When your child texts, there's no way to know who else is read­ing their mes­sages. Worse yet, if your child has tex­ter's re­gret and deletes a sent mes­sage, the text still ex­ists on the re­cip­i­ent's phone, and can be screen­shot­ted and shared via so­cial me­dia with the world at large. Make sure your child un­der­stands that any­thing sent via text is doc­u­mented for­ever—in­clud­ing pic­tures! There's no eras­ing mes­sages or turn­ing back, so urge your child to text wisely and set ground rules re­gard­ing shar­ing photos so there's no con­fu­sion.

Stephanie O'Leary is a Clin­i­cal Psy­chol­o­gist spe­cial­iz­ing in neu­ropsy­chol­ogy, a mom of two, and the au­thor of Par­ent­ing in the Real World. She pro­vides par­ents with a no-non­sense ap­proach to nav­i­gat­ing the daily grind while pre­par­ing their child for the chal­lenges they'll face in the real world. www.stephanieoleary.com.

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