Guest Author - Beverly Patchell
Texting is the primary means of communication these days between adolescents and their friends. They often utilize text language, which allows rapid response and quick communication of feelings. Adults are usually way behind the curve on what is current and what communicates the most with the least amount of letters. Pictures are another way of quick communication, sometimes too graphically for good taste and legality. Often things escalate within a peer group before anyone realizes that they have gone too far. Another way that texting is problematic is in school during testing. Many schools take phones away because it is easy for students to communicate answers among themselves and just telling students to turn them off doesn't always work. The very skills that encourage learning can allow students to gain an advantage over others is used in the context of gaining advantage during testing. This often starts in the very early grades so that by the time an adolescent is getting ready to go to college, he or she may not realize that there will be very severe consequences for this behavior at the college level. Most colleges have very stringent rules about what is constitutes cheating and it can mean the end of an academic career at many schools.
Communication is also important on the social pages. What many adolescents do not realize is that other groups monitor these pages and they can also result in unforeseen consequences. FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, and all of the others are the first place job-screeners for many large companies look to learn about the real person they are considering hiring. Other groups that monitor these pages are state and federal tax collectors, police (if the person is under suspicion for a crime) and even scholarship groups, making sure that what is presented in cyberspace is congruent with what they might have found out in an interview or through a resume'.
So how do parents monitor and make sure that their adolescents are staying within the realm of what is legal and appropriate to communicate to larger world? It would be almost impossible to spend the necessary time to daily monitor all of this communication. The damage to the trust relationship would also be immeasurable. What parents have to do is make sure that they instill a sense of responsibility about how communication happens in all realms. If your adolescent is naturally polite and pays attention to what and how they communicate, then they will do that in the cyber world, too. Parents should also realize that adolescents are still learning throughout their adolescence and that monitoring should be on a sliding scale related to their level of maturity and common sense. Talk to them about what is important in communication in general and keep those lines of communication open until you are sure that they can handle what to share and what to keep.