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At what age should my child be allowed to text?

43914594 - cute pupil using smartphone in a classroom in schoolAs the school year begins and children increasingly are exposed to messaging technology, the question parents must answer is: At what age should I allow them to begin text-messaging? There’s little doubt many of their friends already send messages to one another via SMS, not to mention on social media platforms and apps. If your kids haven’t already started asking you for direction, they’re likely to start soon.

The fact is there’s no consensus on the right age for text-messaging. It’s up to parents to make that call. But some general rules of thumb are helpful as you think through when SMS is OK for young people—and when it might be best to wait a while longer.

Rule #1: Determine who will send and receive text messages. One solution is to set ground rules for who your children may text. For example, if messages are simply being sent among you and your immediate family, you might allow texting at an earlier age. This allows you to ensure your student arrives safely during a school trip or to communicate with your child in the event of an emergency.

Rule #2: Explore what your child’s school says about texting. As much as your child might want to text all of the time, not all teachers and principals are thrilled about the devices. In fact, they can distract from learning, which is why many schools require phones to be put away in lockers or even left at home so students can focus on their studies. This alone can help parents decide best practices on texting.

Rule #3: Set guidelines for texting. In cases where you are comfortable with your children’s maturity level and texting capabilities, consider setting guidelines so they have best practices to fall back on. For example, you might only allow text messages between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weeknights to ensure your children disconnect from technology at a reasonable time. Their brains will function better as a result and they’re likely to sleep better, too. It also ensures they aren’t keeping their friends awake with late-night messages. You might also appoint a basket in your kitchen or some other visible location where phones must be stored outside of bedrooms or homework areas so they are not a distraction.

Text-messaging is a wonderful tool, particularly when it’s used correctly. Spend time talking with your family to identify some basic principles of use and you’re sure to have an educational—and connected—school year.