Rules of Texting & Cell Phone Etiquette for Tweens

Girl (10-11) texting on mobile phone
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Texting is the primary method of communication for tweens. If your child has a cell phone, text messaging is just part of the deal. But texting can have a dark side, and tweens need to understand that there is never a reason for their messages and behavior to turn crass, rude, mean or risqué.​

Below are a few guidelines your child should know about texting, cell phone etiquette, and communicating with others ​without sacrificing their good character.

Simple Rules for Text Messaging and Etiquette

  1. Texting doesn't replace talking. Tweens should understand that texting shouldn't take the place of all one-on-one interactions with their friends. If you want your child to bond with their friends, encourage that they spend time together.
  2. Keep it short and sweet. Tweens should keep text messages short and to-the-point. If a "conversation" goes on for more than a few minutes, encourage your tween to pick up the phone and continue the conversation that way.
  3. Don't text in front of others. Tweens should understand that they should refrain from "phubbing," which is texting with another person while they're spending time with a friend. It's extremely rude at any age and can hurt feelings. Text messaging and phone etiquette requires tweens to think about how their actions make other people feel.
  4. Think before you text. Teach your tween to refrain from texting a friend if they're in a fight or are angry with one another. Ask your child to wait until they've calmed down, and then encourage them to work things out in person or over the phone.
  5. It's all about context. Tweens should know that sometimes text messages are misunderstood because of a lack of context. The text message recipient can't see the sender's facial expressions or hear their tone of voice. Jokes and sarcastic comments may cause hard feelings if they're passed along in a text message and misunderstood.
  6. Keep content in mind. Teach your tween that they should refrain from delivering bad news in a text message, i.e. "I heard our soccer coach quit!"
  7. Be kind. Tweens should understand that they are responsible for what they text to other people. Teach your child to refrain from gossiping about others, trashing others, and being unkind in general.
  8. Don't text and drive. It will be a few more years before your tween is behind the wheel of a car, but teach them that they should never text and drive. In the meantime, your tween should also know that they shouldn't text while engaged in other activities that require their full attention, such as riding a bike, skateboarding, or any situation in which your tween needs to be aware of what is going on around them.
  9. Text at the right time. Your child should refrain from texting during class, at church, dinner, the movies, a friend's birthday party, a funeral or in other public settings. The same applies if your family is going out for a nice meal or enjoying an activity together.
  10. Texting is a privilege, not a right. Texting should be regarded as a privilege, and your tween should know that bad behavior will result in the loss of that privilege. Remind your tween that part of the responsibility of using a cell phone is following cell phone etiquette rules. That's the responsibility of growing up.
11 Sources
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Additional Reading

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.