Equipped with as little as another party’s mobile phone number, kids can send messages back and forth via text or multimedia message, as we point out in Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide. These missives differ from e-mails in that they’re transmitted over a wireless carriers’ cellular phone network as opposed to being transmitted over the Internet like e-mails. In fact, if you don’t buy the right data and/or texting plan, children can quickly rack up hefty bills, since – outside of preset monthly limits associated with said plans – many phone companies will try and charge you by the message if they can.
The global average price of a text message is about $0.11, but, as alluded, many providers offer plans that allow unlimited texting for a flat rate. Again, we repeat: When signing up for cellular service, it’s imperative that you make sure you have the right plan. Stories abound of parents being shocked with phone bills of $4,000 to even $20,000 or more because of not selecting the right texting packages for their family. While you may LOL at the idea some years later in life, we assure you, receiving a 20-page monthly billing statement won’t seem so comical here and now.
Interestingly, the Pew Research Center has unearthed some eye-opening numbers about the prevalence and popularity of texting. A whopping 63% of all teens say they exchange text messages every day with people in their lives, which is far greater than any other form of communication amongst this demographic. Only 39% socialize via cell phone, and even when combined with the 19% who communicate with friends daily via landlines, the total still falls short of the number of teens who say that they’re texting friends daily. Cheerfully for parents who fear that technology is making us more introverted, face-to-face meetings with friends still rank high on teens’ social radar. But still, just 35% of those surveyed report getting to connect with friends in real-life every day. Even less have daily interactions with friends on social networks (29%), instant messages (22%) or e-mails (6%).
Moreover, the amount that teens are texting continues to rise. One in three teens sends more than 100 text messages a day, and half of teens send at least 60 texts per day. Girls, according to Pew, send and receive twice as many text messages as boys, and as teens grow, so does the amount they text, with the average amount sent by 14-17 year olds ranking at more than 100 texts per day. In addition, fully two-thirds of teen texters say that they are more likely to use their cell phones to text their friends than talk to them to them by cell phone. The key takeaway here: Texting is the dominant mode of communication for teens and the main groups of people that they’re communicating with. As parents, it’s imperative you learn how to text, text with your kids, and understand more about what it is they’re doing and saying via this form of communication.
One of the reasons for the abundance and popularity of text messages is that they can be very brief and make use of a number of abbreviations, making them easy to compose, share and digest. This can also be a problem for a parent trying to keep tabs on kids’ conversations, since all those “IDKs” or “SMHs” may look like gibberish. Be advised: It’s important that you familiarize yourself with commonplace text abbreviations and their meanings. And if you come across slang terms that you don’t know, a site like noslang.com can help you find out what your kids are saying by using its Internet slang translator, so you can quickly find out that “SLOS” means “someone looking over shoulder,” for example.
If it all seems like gobbledygook to you, take heart: Netlingo offers an online dictionary of text abbreviations, with an extensive and searchable list of acronyms, so you can enjoy a crash course in how to speak in high-tech shorthand.
Keenly-attuned to fashion, travel, and nightlife trends, associate editor T.T.’s encyclopedic knowledge of bars and restaurants remains unrivaled – and her word is gospel when it comes to Sunday brunch. Our resident trivia night expert and staff humorist, she’s only been banned from one karaoke joint (that we know about). Also: Dog is her co-pilot.