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15 Kid-Focused Table Topics for Texting Skills

Image of Shelley Delayne
Shelley Delayne

The same way that you teach your child table manners, you can teach them messaging etiquette. How can you help them develop good communication skills?

Have them practice messaging with you and with trusted adults, so they get the confidence that comes with positive feedback. Let them text with known friends, also, with the understanding that you will review those texts periodically. Using the Pinwheel text history in the Pinwheel Caregiver Portal, you can look over their messages and coach them when it’s needed. Let them win, in a safe environment, to prepare them for their future. 

What should you tell your child when they first get a phone capable of text messaging?

These are some suggested guidelines to give your child, to start the learning process:

  1. Always be aware of the person you are sending a message to. Texts with a friend may be different from a text you would send to a grown-up. With friends, it will be a learning process on how you communicate with each other.With anyone you text, remember:
  2. Texting does not replace talking. Spending time talking makes a relationship better. It involves more kinds of cues, wrapping up more of the brain—it isn’t “in your head” laughing out loud when you really laugh together.
  3. Especially if it’s hard. If there is something that makes you uncomfortable to talk to someone about, get coaching from a trusted adult on how to have the conversation in person. That uncomfortable feeling may be a good indicator that it is a big conversation, and one to have with voices and not texts. 
  4. Or complicated. If a text conversation goes on a long time, consider moving to a phone call! 
  5. Avoid texting in front of others. If you do need to send a text while with someone in person, excuse yourself to do so. Tell them you need to reply to a message, do it quickly, and return your attention to them. 
  6. Pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t text while walking or skateboarding or riding your bike. 
  7. Do not deliver bad news in a text.
  8. Mind your privacy. Do not ever, ever, ever, ever for any reason send photos of your naked body or private parts. To anyone. (Parents: Bark can monitor for inappropriate photos, and alert you!) 
  9. Be kind. 
  10. Read your text over again, after you type it and before you hit send to make sure it is something you want to send. 
  11. Use whole words and complete thoughts, at least, when being polite with adults. Avoid slang and abbreviations, unless you know the other person knows them.
  12. Do not expect an immediate response. If you do not get an immediate reply, do not bombard them with repetitive messages. They’re probably busy or it matters enough that they want to connect more meaningfully later. Someone choosing to not reply right then should not be pressured to reply faster. If you really need something, call.
  13. Meaning can get lost. Texts don’t always get your whole feeling across, especially if you are kidding about something or being sarcastic. It is ok to use emojis and GIFs to help express a feeling or idea, or to be silly or fun.
  14. Don’t go overboard. Too many emojis or GIFs can be confusing and annoying.
  15. Understand it. Make sure you know what the emoji or GIF expresses. If you aren't sure, ask for help. If you send someone an emoji or a GIF and they think it means something different than what you thought it meant, it can be a messy misunderstanding! Be thoughtful in your choices.




Some ways to have these conversations

  • You can model the behavior. Show them how you’re using GIFs and images and texts. Let them into your world! Let them ask questions about why you said something a certain way or not. Pause before you send a text and ask them to read it or watch along. 
  • Print this article and let them read it and give you some thoughts. 
  • Have them self-rate their texting skills from 1-10 and you rate them too then show each other at the same time. Make a goal to improve scores by a certain amount and put it on the calendar to check back in. 

Also: If you aren't a big emoji user, or you aren't sure what your kid's friends mean by something, you may find this guide to emoji slang from our partners at Bark to be useful:

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