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IM’ing Can Be A Useful Parenting Tool

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Texting May Be Beneficial To Your Parenting

(Originally posted May 15, 2005)

Most parents roll their eyeballs when you bring up instant messaging, but I think there is something exciting to explore here.

My husband and I have home offices and so we work at our computers at wonky hours. Our girls will often IM "when’s dinner?" from the kitchen to us upstairs in our offices But other times the conversations get to be pretty long and they often get richer. Initially it feels silly typing to the person who is on the next floor, why not just talk? But the effect is different. 

Maybe it is something like the old advice to take your kids for a drive when you tell them about sex so you don’t have to make eye contact. Could it be sometimes it just feels more comfortable writing something intimate instead of saying it? I certainly feel more attentive when I IM with the girls than when we talk over the hustle and bustle of the kitchen while fixing dinner, with the radio playing and multiple conversations going on. IM chats when sustained past "when is dinner" seem focussed and go deeper than idle chatter. Maybe "chat" is a misnomer.

I have had very meaningful conversations and gained insights into the lives, hearts and minds of my daughters that I may not have had otherwise.  Why?  Because it is their medium and their preferred way to communicate about some of this stuff.  And again, while it doesn’t replace personal interaction, I believe it can enhance relationships.

My kids now IM with their Omi who is 84 and lives out-of-town. They keep in touch with her more than they would if they relied on picking up the phone or sitting down to write a letter.  And these quick after-school chats are fresher and more authentic. Don’t give up on IM’ing so quickly. You might find some treasures there if you dig.

Do you use IM as a way to communicate?  What other non-traditional ways have you found to connect with your kids the way they want to connect?

bbfn (lol!)

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

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2 Responses to “IM’ing Can Be A Useful Parenting Tool”

  1. Terri

    I have an 11 year old who is cursing on Facebook and using it to talk badly about other kids at her school. What should I do?

  2. Alyson Schafer

    Hi Terri,
    Youth culture and cursing is a part of the reality of growing through this life stage. They are trying to look mature and impress their friends. In a culture that refuses to acknowledge the maturity of our youth, they have to seek other means to proving they are “grown up”. You should discuss swearing with your child and explain that if it is meant to hurt others, its not okay – that words can be the weapons of attack, and if she is using “weapons” its NOT okay.
    However, if she uses swear words with her friends and its intention is not hurtful – its their own social agreement about how they talk to each other. Regardless, they don’t talk to teachers, parents and others that are not in that agreement – and let her/ him know that you personally are NOT impressed by it. That it actually lacks originality and usually is someones struggle to impress – which, frankly seems a bit desperate.
    Hopefully without making it taboo – but seeking to teach about it, and discuss it, your child will be more co-operative about their language.
    If they are outright bullying or attacking on facebook – you need to talk about the respsonsiblities that come with being on a social network. If they can’t adhere to the basic operating rules of being respectful, then I suggest you work on creating a logical consequence together of what should happen when a breech of the agreeements occurs.
    Usually, if a child helps create the consequence they feel its less personal and punitive if you have to implement it.
    Good luck!


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