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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

The texting divide

By Nicola Freeman

Like many parents, I’m always amazed at how many texts kids can send back and forth in a 24-hour period. It used to be that 30 texts a day was a sign of an over-active social life, but now such a low number might raise concerns about withdrawal and isolation. A hundred or more is now the norm, and you would have to be up near the 300-a-day mark to be considered a bit of a “hyper-texter” by your peers.

While these numbers might seem ridiculously high to adults, consider for a minute what our kids are not doing while they’re texting. They’re not e-mailing and they’re not making phone calls. According to recent studies, only around 11 per cent of teens ever use e-mail. And, as any parent of a teen knows, call minutes are the least of your worries when it comes to setting up a family cell phone plan.

But how can kids possibly handle 100 or more texts a day. And doesn’t everything else suffer, from school work to precious sleep time?

Fortunately, one thing kids are really good at is filtering. Even though kids may receive up to 300 texts a day, they don’t respond to all of them. They don't feel the need to. They select which messages seem to be the highest priority and they filter everything else out.

Plus, the very nature of texting keeps messages short and sweet. Whereas adults are more comfortable spelling out exactly what they want to say, kids will keep communication to a minimum. In the upside down world of texting, quantity beats quality every time. If there’s a misunderstanding, well, you can always send another text later!

Unfortunately, many parents can’t look past the numbers. Just this week, I read one blog post where a mom proudly related the fact that she had confiscated her two teens’ phones after she saw monthly text counts of 3,000 or more. In today’s digital world that’s like grounding your kids for being popular.

That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be limits and boundaries. No cell phones in the classroom or after bedtime should be two rules that are always in place.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be too worried about numbers. Texting has effectively replaced the hour-long phone calls we used to have with our friends when we were kids. That hour-long chat has now been broken down into a hundred texts. It may not be our way of doing things but that doesn’t make it a bad thing.

How many texts a day does your teen send? Do you set limits? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

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