I had a discussion recently about whether parents should monitor the cell phone texts their children send and receive. Here’s how I see it: A face-to-face conversation has certain natural constraints. The people that my kids talk to face to face are going to be naturally limited to physical proximity. Yeah, kids on the bus are going to talk about serious things and while I would like to have some frank conversations about that, I can’t reasonably expect to be privy to all those conversations, but I don’t worry about that as much because of the natural constraint.
A text conversation opens up a new realm of possibility. Anyone armed with the phone number can now conduct a conversation with my child. The analogy would be to allow my child to talk to any random person on the street that wanted to talk to them. We tell our kids not to talk to strangers, but a stranger with a cell phone can disguise themselves as anything. The privacy of texting is also an issue. A person will avoid certain conversations because they don’t want to be seen with a certain person, but it’s impossible to tell who they might be texting just by looking. Cell phone texts are basically opening the doors for additional privacy and extending the pool of potential contacts.
The last point I’ll add is this isn’t a theoretical problem. I have a few friends that have had serious issues with their children and texting. And my wife and I have found that being able to drop in on private conversations has been an invaluable tool in raising our kids.