How to Teach Your Child Texting Etiquette

By Andrea Nelson
October 5, 2023
Group of children texting

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. 

Talking to your child about texting 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.

Texting do's

  • Do tell your parents or a trusted adult if someone sends you hurtful or inappropriate messages or photos, or if their texts make you feel uncomfortable or afraid. 
  • Do remember any text you send can be forwarded, screenshotted, saved, and shared. 
  • Do remember that people sometimes lie. A person claiming to be your age could really be an older person looking to harm you. 
  • Do save upsetting messages and show them to your parents or another trusted adult.

Texting don'ts

  • Don’t send inappropriate or hurtful photos or messages.
  • Don’t text with someone who has made you uncomfortable or afraid. 
  • Don’t respond if someone sends you a hurtful or inappropriate message. 
  • Don’t text with someone you don’t know. 
  • Don’t click on any link sent to you that you aren’t sure is legitimate.

Establishing guidelines for texting

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 these basic tenets of 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 establish how you'll supervise what your child sends and receives. BrightCanary is the most comprehensive parental monitoring solution for Apple devices, allowing parents to monitor their child's text messages, social media direct messages, and more.

Guidelines for respectful texting 

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:

  • Think before responding
  • Before texting, consider if your message might be hurtful or taken out of context.
  • If something doesn’t make sense or is hurtful, ask for clarification.
  • If your text is misinterpreted by someone, apologize.
  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Proactive problem solving

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: 

  • Show them how to block a number. Let them know it’s a good idea to block someone who sends them upsetting messages or strangers who try to reach out.  
  • Talk to them about when they should show a text to an adult. Be specific and give examples. 
  • Let them know they can come to you if they mess up. By opening the dialogue now and leading with empathy, your child is more likely to come to you for help if they send a message they regret

In short 

Texting is both a privilege and a responsibility for kids. Start early to teach them how to text responsibly and safely. 

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