Textiquette for Teenagers

My children will tell you that I’m a bit of an old fuddy-duddy when it comes to cell phones and texting.  For a long time, I refused to get texting on the phones, much to their chagrin.  After all, I reasoned, I did not want to add any more interruptions to my day, much less invite them, so why should they? When I finally did allow for texting capability, I did not tell people for a long time I could receive texts and still use it pretty rarely. (Except when I can send my family something like a video link to a chameleon popping bubbles. Then it has some merit.)

Anyway, like I say, texting makes me grumpy, especially when I see my children being rude with it. Should we not sit our kids down and have some good, old-fashioned, Emily Post time with them about texting etiquette?  Here are five basic rules of textiquette I try to encourage my kids to consider.

Stay in the conversation you are already in.  Do we not train our children it is bad form to interrupt a conversation others are having? Do we not also teach them to pay attention when someone else is speaking to them? So how is a text any different?  Why let one disrupt a perfectly good conversation they are already having?  The only way such an interruption should occur is if they kindly ask the other person’s pardon in order to handle a needed text.

You do not need to respond right away.  Why do kids respond to texts as if they are 911 operators? Perhaps it has to do with knowing most people carry their phones around and are notified immediately of receiving a text.  Yet this social pressure does not mandate urgency on our part to answer the text.  Coach your kids not to be controlled by texting. One way is to have set times during the day when their phone is put away so they can concentrate on homework or enjoy the activity at hand.

No ongoing conversations with someone of the opposite sex.  I dare say if every time your daughter went to church, she paired up with a guy and then went off to an unused room just “to talk” for hours at a time, you would put a stop to it.  So are you going to let her lie on her bed behind a closed door and do the same through texting? Frequent communication with someone else builds intimacy. A text or two to someone of the opposite sex to arrange a group activity or ask a homework question may be appropriate, but long texting trails just become chains binding young hearts together prematurely and inappropriately.

Your text WILL BE SEEN by others so watch your words.   I cannot believe how trusting young people can be to text heart secrets to a friend only to be hurt when they realize others have seen it.  Teach your children that if every idle word will be shouted from the rooftops, they can be sure that every texted word will be circulated among friends.

Texting is not always the appropriate form of communication.  Because it is so ubiquitous to this generation, young people can tend to use texting for every type of communication.  However, generally they should use the form of communication that was used to contact them.  If a boss calls on the phone, then call him back unless he specifies otherwise.  If someone has sent an email or letter to them, then encourage them to do likewise. Remind them that as their texts will be seen by others per above, certain subjects and conversations are best done face-to-face.

Just some thoughts from a texting curmudgeon. Feel free to add others below.


  1. Tim July 21, 2015 at 9:02 am #

    Also make sure that you don’t say anything in text or online that you wouldn’t say to someone in person. Great thoughts!

  2. Cindy July 21, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in front of your mother or father. Because we have their passwords & check their devices (ipod, phones, tablet, etc) & accounts on a very regular basis. All devices have to be ‘checked in’ at night. We have a ‘no devices/computers/tv’ in the bedroom rule. Keeps ’em on the straight & narrow.

  3. Barry York July 21, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

    Some further helpful curmudgeonly practices. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Alejandro July 21, 2015 at 9:04 pm #

    Thanks Barry!
    I have translated your article to Spanish. May I share it in my Facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/ibmlobos?pnref=lhc


    • Barry York July 22, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

      You’re welcome and certainly!

  5. Jacob Simmons July 27, 2015 at 12:19 am #

    “Frequent communication with someone else builds intimacy”, in your context is about teenagers, but do you believe this to be true with adults as well?

    What advice would you give to someone who believes that a text conversation is much more innocent?

    Fantastic article by the way, loved this specific point.

    • Barry York July 27, 2015 at 9:48 am #


      Thanks for reading. Great questions.

      Yes, I think ongoing communications via texting or other means between adults of the opposite sex run the risk of developing wrongful intimacy as well. Of course, such precautions as limiting the number and length of communications, sharing the texts with a spouse or friend, making the messages go to a group rather than an individual, etc. can keep enough light on the situation to prevent this from developing.

      Regarding advice for those who think texting is much more innocent, I try to use analogies like “the daughter at church” one in the article, look at the Proverbs regarding the use of the tongue, or turn things around on them a bit. For instance, if a guy says his texting with a girl is not harming anyone, I will ask him if he is okay with his girlfriend texting another guy about their relationship or things they have spoken about in secret. The right questions usually will reveal the hypocrisy!


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