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Teach your teen how to talk again

As kids communicate more and more via texting, they’re losing the ability to talk face-to-face with real people. Parents can stop this trend.

Too much texting takes a toll on teens

“We have to pull teens out of the cyber world and into the joys of interacting with other people face to face. If we do not, we risk sending them into adulthood bereft of the social skills they will need for a successful career and relationships.” — Kevin J. Roberts.

As the author of Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap, Kevin J. Roberts speaks to parent groups across the country about how texting has affected communication among children.

How texting falls short

Research shows that conversation involves more than just words:

  • 7 percent: the actual content of your message
  • 38 percent: the tone of your voice
  • 55 percent: body language

“Effective communication requires all three of these components,” says Roberts, “and a text message eliminates two of them.” The result is miscommunication and a total breakdown of conversation.

How texting impacts your child’s writing skills >>

Texting lacks empathy

“For quick communications, such as ‘I’ll be home for dinner at six,’ text messaging is great,” says adolescent psychiatrist Sujatha Ramakrishna. “For maintaining relationships with other human beings, it pretty much stinks.”

“If your daughter tells her friend that her shoes are hideous, and her friend starts crying, your daughter ends up feeling sad too,” explains Dr. Ramakrishna. “Human beings naturally pick up on the feelings of others through facial expressions and body language. If someone else feels bad, we feel bad too. Through experiences like these, kids learn how to behave in ways that don’t offend or upset others.”

But what happens when kids comment via text messages? “There’s no way of knowing how the person on the other end is reacting,” says Dr. Ramakrishna. “There’s no incentive to stop hurting someone’s feelings, and so the rude behavior continues. It’s the reason that cyber-bullying is so common… and so damaging.”

Dr. Ramakrishna describes the “Dark Ages of Etiquette” >>

Encourage real conversation

The loss of regular language among our kids is a growing concern for Dr. John Duffy, clinical psychologist, parenting expert and author of The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens. “We will never be able to ‘beat’ the texting revolution, but we can control the way we communicate with and relate to our kids,” says Dr. Duffy, who offers these communication tips:


Draw out discussions with them.


Ask genuine, curious, open-ended questions.


At the dinner table, in the car or wherever you can acquire their undivided attention.

And do your part. “We can’t expect our kids to speak with clarity and maturity if we’re using the LOL shorthand on a regular basis,” says Dr. Duffy.

What your child wants you to know about his cell phone >>

Set an example

Have you every shooed your child away while texting a friend? Your kids are taking note.

Dr. Lisa Greenberg, a licensed psychologist who works with teens and parents, encourages parents to put away their own electronic devices when they’re with family. “Kids tell me that they want to talk to their parents but feel like the parents are glued to their own texting and can’t be pulled away,” says Dr. Greenberg.


Save your texting for when the kids are in school or after they’ve gone to bed. Be available — without distraction — when they need to talk to you.

What else parents should know about texting

Cell phones options for kids
Cell phone safety tips for kids, tweens and children
The new teen relationships: Teens who text and date

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