Phone Communication Guide

Talking to Teens About Healthy Phone Communication

Boundaries and Texting vs. Talking

Whether a teen is texting, calling, using direct message through social media platforms, or sharing public posts, talkingto them about healthy communication habits is important in keeping them, and others, safe.

When talking to teens about healthy communication habits, a great place to start the conversation is withboundaries. Create an interactive and discussion-based environment by starting off with a question:

What are some boundaries that are important to have when using technology?

Talk through this question. Some are time and availability, which are important boundaries to have and are vitalwhen talking about healthy communication. Let them explain their ideas and thoughts, creating an openenvironment to share.

Helping teens differentiate between people they need to respond to and people they feel obligated to respondto is important in reinforcing healthy boundary development. Teens can take time away from their phones andnot feel guilty when they realize a friend texted them a couple hours ago. It’s important for teens to know thatit’s not their responsibility to be a continuous line of communication for peers, but instead, they can take a stepback and talk to adults to find help and support. It all starts with a discussion and establishing a safety net. Help them develop some simple boundary tactics for if they ever interact with someone who doesn’t have the same boundaries as them.

Help them develop some simple boundary tactics for if they ever interact with someone who doesn’t have the same boundaries as them.

I can’t text after 9:00pm, sorry!

I have to do homework, can’t talk!

I have family dinner right now, talk later.

Not only does this help them learn strategies for creating boundaries, but it can help them feel less worried about situations like this in the future. Talking about boundaries can show teens that taking breaks from texting and online communication is okay and healthy for their mental health, and that you, as an adult, are someone they can turn to for support.

Talk to them about taking breaks and why that’s okay; how taking a break and coming back later on is healthy.

What are some examples of when taking a break is a good idea?

  • You’re stressed when your phone goes off
  • You feel pressured to respond, even if you’re in the middle of something else
  • Someone keeps messaging you and making you feel bad about not responding fast enough

Feeling stressed and unsure of boundaries when using technology can be common in a teen’s life, and it’s possible that these feelings will happen again. Talk to them about these situations and making sure they know they have the freedom to say no, seek support from a trusted adult, and take breaks from their phone without feeling guilty or stressed.

Helping teens learn about healthy communication habits and that phones and technology shouldn’t replace face-to-facerelationships entirely is important. In a world surrounded by technology, it’s important to emphasize how face-to-faceand in person relationships are significant. Using new forms of communication can be a great way to stay connectedbut talking to your teen about not becoming dependent on this type of contact and when to take a break from it all arealso an important part of increasing online education

When Should Conversations Be Face-toFace Instead of Over Text?

Think of a list of possible scenarios that you can talk about withteens. Work through these together, discuss why some of thesesituations would be “texting conversations” or “face-to-faceconversations”. Hear what they have to say, work with them tostrengthen their boundaries and reinforce why face-to-facecommunication can be the healthy contact in certain instances.This may be a discussion focused on healthy communication habitsbut it can also be a time to connect with them; to listen to their ideasand reinforce that you are a support system for them if they everneed to talk to someone.

Scenario Examples:

  • Inviting people to a hang out
  • Cancelling an important meeting with a teacher
  • Breaking up with someone
  • Resolving a conflict with a friend
  • Submitting homework
  • Letting your family know your plans
  • Telling your friend why you’re frustrated with them