Many kids send instant messages through games and apps such as Messenger Kids. But texting on a phone is a whole new ballgame, and with it comes the need to learn texting etiquette and personal safety. That’s because text messaging has fewer built-in parental controls than the apps your kids may use.
It’s best to have conversations about texting etiquette and safety early and often, so your child is well-prepared by the time they get their first phone. Whether your kiddo is about to take the plunge, is a seasoned pro, or is years away from this milestone, there’s no time like the present to show them basic cell phone etiquette.
Good texting rules aren’t too different from other online safety tips you’ve probably already taught your child. Talk to them about how those cautions apply to texting, too.
Here are some texting dos and don’ts to go over with your child:
It’s best to establish texting rules for your child in advance of giving them their first phone. If you wait until they have it, the rules can feel like punishment, rather than guidelines meant to protect them.
Your child should understand and follow the following texting etiquette:
Always respond promptly to messages from your parents. Kids should also turn on read receipts, so parents know when their message was received.
Never click on links from suspicious numbers. They’re probably phishing.
Be clear about what personal information is okay to text and to whom. For example, you may be fine with them sending their game schedule to family members. But your child shouldn’t share their whereabouts with neighbors or strangers.
Establish where it is appropriate to text and when it’s not. Texting while driving is never okay — even if they’re years from their license, it’s good to set this expectation now (and practice what you preach). Decide if texting other places, like in their bedroom or at the kitchen table, is allowed.
Decide when it’s okay to text and when it’s time to stop. If you don’t want them to text before school, during class, or after bedtime, be clear and specific.
Develop a list of people your child can text. Do they know them personally, do they know a mutual friend, or are they potentially talking to a stranger?
Once you’ve established the rules for texting, it’s wise to write them into a digital device contract. Remember, the rules you set now aren’t written in stone. As your child matures and becomes more independent, you may need to periodically revisit and revise your agreement.
In addition to teaching your children how to text safely, now’s also the time to teach them to text kindly.
Here are some guidelines for texting with kindness:
As your child embarks on their texting journey, it’s inevitable that problems will arise. Get ahead of any issues by preparing them to face potentially challenging situations.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Texting is both a privilege and a responsibility for kids. Start early to teach them how to text responsibly and safely.