By Jane Parent
If you have an adolescent son or daughter, then the chances are high that you are texting. Often, it’s the only way to communicate with your teenager these days; for the teens who are constantly typing away at their phone, it’s the easiest way to get through to them.
However, sometimes you need another way to contact your teenager. There are times when phone batteries die, or screens crack, or when the cellular service is too spotty to get through. And when these times happen, you may have tried to text and call your teenager without any luck. When times are desperate, you may have resorted to sending a text to your teenager’s friend.
But should you ever text your teenager’s friend? For that second before you clicked send, did you worry about the friend—or worse, the friend’s parents—thinking you were creepy or inappropriate? What boundaries should parents have when they text their teenager’s friends? What forms of communication are acceptable between a teen’s parent and that teen’s friends?
“Observe the golden rule,” says Dr. Deborah Gilboa, family physician and author of Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate! That is, would you want your child to text one of your friends to say what you are about to say? You might want to think about the answer.
Let’s say you want to send a quick text asking your son’s friend if they could give your son a ride home. Seems reasonable, right? Completely fine. However, sending a text that might be teasing or social might make your teen feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. After all, those are the kinds of texts that they might share with their friends; it’s not a zone for parents to be involved in.
“Kids should have different boundaries with adults than adults do with each other,” explains Dr. Gilboa. “A social friendship between an adult and teen may cause more trouble than benefit.” If you’re concerned about one of your teenager’s friends and want to communicate with her, Dr. Gilboa suggests that you make sure it is coming from a place of caring or mentorship, not hanging out and fun. It could be confusing for your teen about where that attitude is coming from.
If your teenager has friends that you enjoy and admire, remember that they are your teenager’s friend, and not yours. When in doubt about a text, run it by your teen before you hit send.