(Comunic8N w/yr Kids—Yr Msg, Their Md)
I’ll just say it: I hate text messaging. It takes me forever to find the right letters on my phone and I don’t like switching screens just to insert a semicolon. It costs 10¢ per message, which seems ridiculously wasteful, and it makes my thumbs hurt (although you can add this service to your cell phone plan for a minimum monthly fee).
In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m “old” (i.e., older than 20), and chances are, if you’re reading this, you are too. You may have noticed how communication preferences are the greatest indicator of generational differences these days. “Really old” people (over 40) still use telephones and voice mail and are soundly mocked by those in their 30’s who rely on email and IM (Instant Messaging). (Let’s not even talk about those fossils who still—gasp!—write letters by hand.) However, for those 25 and under, text messaging is unquestionably the preferred method of communication.
According to a 2005 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 45% of teens have cell phones and of those, 64% regularly send text messages from them. Sixty percent of teens listed text messaging as their primary form of communication with their peers, second in popularity only to cell phones. Teens also named Instant Messages and social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Friendster as preferred communication methods. The least popular? Face-to-face communication and email at 35% and 22%, respectively. Joel Kades, VP of Strategic Planning and Consumer Insight for Virgin Mobile USA calls texting “the folded-up note of this time period”. 
What does this mean for parents? For those who feel like I do, it unfortunately means you should start doing thumb exercises. For as long as there have been parents and children, there has been a struggle between communication and privacy. Relationship experts have long recommending using notes as a way to communicate with your children while still allowing them a bit of mental and emotional space.
It might feel strange to send your kids a text message when they are sitting in the next room, but what if you’re working late again this week, or they’re at the mall as usual? Busy families often connect more frequently if they can do so electronically. Either way, you might be pleased by the results.
Messages can be small (“I’m getting a snack. Want one too?”). Or they can be thoughts that you might forget to share with them otherwise (“I really like your hair like that”). It can be a great way to tell them something that might otherwise embarrass them (“I was watching you fold laundry today, and remembered how much helped me fold socks when you were a baby”) or a way to quickly set up a “real” discussion (“Family meeting tonight? Let’s talk allowance.”). Even a well-timed “LOL” (“laugh out loud”) can let your child know you’re listening. You can also send a text message to remind your child about a task they need to do or let them know you’ll be home late. The options are endless.
Communicating non-verbally with your child allows some valuable things that speaking doesn’t. First, privacy. Your children can read messages own their own turf, without looking you in the eye, affording them more control over their emotions and thoughts. Second, you can both think things through so your messages are accurate—and can be re-read later when you’re no longer mad. Third, text messages can be kept on the phone or sent to an email address to be looked at again and again. You might be surprised at how much your child might treasure a compliment or kind word. Best of all, text messages or instant messages are quick and don’t even require a response, making communication feel intimate and easy, rather than being a big production, and helping your child to see you in a different light.
This is great, you say, I’m on board, I’m ready to start texting and IMing my kids. Now what? Well, first you need to learn how. For IM, you’ll need to set up an account (free) with one of the chat services (AIM, Yahoo, MSN, Google Talk, ICQ, etc.). You’ll likely want to use the service your child uses. Chat clients like Trillian or Macintosh’s iChat allow you to have several accounts with different services and be logged into them all simultaneously. To text your child, you both need to have cell phones with a messaging feature (most recent phones do automatically). Compose messages using the numeric keypad on your phone, pressing the number that corresponds to the letter. For example, if you’re trying to type “E”, you’d hit the number 3 twice in succession. Keep in mind, that unless you’re enrolled in an unlimited text program as part of your wireless package, you will be charged for each message sent or received.
As you know, IMs and text messaging has its own slang and shorthand. To save your thumbs, and understand what your child is saying to you, you may want to consult a glossary like GuardChild’s Instant Messaging/Chat/Text Messaging/Emoticon Glossary. If all else fails, ask your kids for help. Assuming they don’t die of embarrassment, it’s a great way to start a conversation.
Tell us—do you text or IM with your child? What do you like/not like about it? How has it affected communication within your family?
 Sekkas, Nick. “Text Messaging Changing Way Teens Communicate”.
 Study: Wired Teens Changing Communication Norms
 “Ohmigod, teens are so over e-mail!”