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Adolescence

Advice: How Much Texting Is Too Much for My Teen?

Advice for parents concerned about texting

Jeffrey Kontur/Flickr
Source: Jeffrey Kontur/Flickr

Dear Dr. Jen,

My teen daughter is obsessed with texting. Sometimes, she sends almost 10,000 texts a month! She follows our rules about no texting at the table or during conversations, but it's all she wants to do. I want to set rules about how often she can text, but she insists she's "normal". How much is too much?

-C

Dear C,

I'm going to side with your daughter here. I was in middle school before texting was a thing, but I had a phone in my room (with a speaker phone!). I would call my best friend, and we would talk for maybe 15 minutes (after being together all day at school), and then we'd just hang out in our rooms with the line open. We didn't even talk that much, but we were virtually present with each other. In college, this was replaced with AOL instant messenger. We stopped calling each other and were present online, ready to chat at any moment. And now, that's texting.

Keep in mind that teens almost never call one another on the phone anymore. They still have conversations, but it's basically always over text. Imagine replacing all your conversations with your middle and high school friends with text. Each sentence you speak becomes 1 or 2 text messages. Suddenly, you are well into the thousands. While 10,000 texts a month is a bit more than average for a teen girl, it is very much inside the normal range. Your daughter is right: she is normal (well, at least in this respect).

Maintaining a constant social presence with friends is a long standing and healthy part of relationships for kids that age. Your daughter and her peers are establishing themselves as independent people with lives, secrets, and discussions outside the family circle. And life at that age is confusing! Having friends always there to discuss it can be a real comfort.

Of course, there needs to be a discussion if your daughter is having trouble getting her homework done or if her texting is interfering with her life. From what you write, it sounds like she is texting it in a respectful way, following your rules, and you are simply uncomfortable with the volume of texts. Fortunately, it appears you have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, you are now officially an Old Person who does not understand kids these days!

Good luck!
Dr. Jen

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