Want to reach teens? Can u txt?

Published 6:57 pm Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Do you know who your teenager is talking to on the other end of that phone?

Or what she’s saying in the conversation?

Once, not so long ago, parents had much more control over their teens’ communications with others – for better or worse. But now, thanks to the rise of cell phones and texting, that is changing.

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Teens today certainly have more opportunities; more information; and more instant access to news and peers than even their older siblings had five years ago.

According to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the use of texting as a primary source of communication has risen dramatically since 2008, eclipsing phone calls, instant messaging, social networks, even talking face-to-face. Back then, only 38 percent of teens sent at least one text message per day. Today, that number has risen to 54 percent.

The survey also showed that three-fourths of teens age 12 to 17 own cell phones now, and of those who do, girls receive 80 or more text messages per day; boys, some 30 or more messages.

It is, quite simply, the way they communicate.

Consider this: texting can be done silently, under the radar of parents, teachers or other adult figures; It can be done anywhere, thanks to the portability of phones. They can control the conversation easily – choosing words carefully, even icons to accentuate and emphasize their points, or even choose to participate on their own time frames. And thanks to the ability to instantly erase text messaging history, teens have access to an incredible amount of privacy in what they say – or text. Face it, text-messaging sounds like a dream to many teens.

Just how pervasive is it? Well, 87 percent of those who text admit to sleeping with, or next to, their phone – just in case they need to send a message.

The message in all this information? It’s that teens today are radically shifting the methods of communication, and parents and adults who fail to recognize this quickly will find themselves left behind.

These youngsters are setting new parameters for communication, new rules, and new guidelines. The challenges for parents will change, as well, as they try to parent and teach in the face of shifting technology. Smart parents will adapt and adjust their parenting skills to meet the new challenges. Those who do will find themselves railing against technology.

So if you want to reach your teens, the answer is simple: learn to text.