Using the Language Our Teens Speak


speaking-teens-languageIt’s been less than 10 years since iPhone changed our country, our culture, our world. Gone are the days of pay phones and Facebook via the desktop.

As a member of the generation with my childhood riding in cars without movie entertainment and my adulthood running pace with technology, I have welcomed many of the changes brought to us by our hand-held computers.

But then I became a mother of a middle schooler. With a phone.

We could talk all day of the right or wrong time to give your child a smart phone. We could argue the horrors and the benefits. We could list the pros and cons. But we won’t. Not today.

No. Today is about the relationship I can build with my almost-teenager, her friends, and my students through the smart phone and social media.

Bottom line? There are real dangers. Ones parents should be hyper-aware of before handing over a device to their child. But real opportunities also exist.

Teens in our culture communicate differently than we did–than we do. Since receiving her phone, I don’t believe my daughter has picked it up once to call a friend just to chat. Her communication has been through the tap-tap-tap of letters on the screen.

Teens text. If I need to remind a student of something important for the next day, I don’t call him or her. I shoot a text or a message through Instagram. They do the same. Question on homework? I get a text or an IG message.

Sure, there’s email. But that’s so Gen. X.

There’s a lot to be said about the ills of this kind of communication. Mountains of research can be found detailing the problems with the overuse of cell phones. I agree with that research. But I can’t ignore the reality of technology that is here.

I face this reality in my home and in my classroom daily.

Don’t worry. I’m not leading a charge to replace face-to-face communication with our teens. We unplug at different times. No-phone family dinners (with nutritious offerings of frozen pizza) are commonplace in our home. Another non-negotiable time is our morning car ride to school. Unplugging is vital to the family unit.

But I can embrace the technology, too.

If I want to communicate well with my daughter right now, I have to use her language. I can’t always expect her to use mine. I will lose her. And frankly? Those stakes are too high.

We bemoan that today’s teens are always staring at a screen. It’s true. And we can work with our kids to keep their screen time down. But we can also use their devices to our advantage.

There are so may ways we can encourage our children through their cell phones. I send my daughter quotes, pictures, quick “how are you’s.” I check on her with emoji hearts and winks. Think of it as the electronic form of a note in the lunch box—which I stink at, by the way.

We’re both on Pinterest. We send each other Harry Potter memes. She finds recipes online that she wants us to cook together. I send her inspirational quotes and funny images.

When I post a picture of her on Instagram, I ask her permission. I try to make sure to tag her with words that will encourage and uplift her during these hard middle school years.

Recently, when a family member had a minor-surgery, I included her in on the group text that kept everyone updated on the procedure. Our extended family has also adopted technology as a major form of communication with her. Some nights I walk into her room, and she’s texting away with her aunt in Atlanta.

Electronics do not always have to tear at the fabric of family life. Our phones can help foster stronger relationships with our teens. Used responsibly, we have a way to tap into the crazy tech world our children embrace.

An additional way to communicate effectively with my daughter?

Yes, please.



  1. I love the analogy to notes in the lunchbox! Perfect! It’s a whole new world out there and I absolutely agree that we have the opportunity to embrace another form of communication with our teens. It’s terrifying, but if it keeps me as an active, influential part of my girls’ lives, I’m firing my Twitter and Pinterest!


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