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How Texting Changes the Way Kids Communicate

Closer Fams

Scratch at the surface of some moms' technology worries, and a core concern is revealed: Is time spent texting, tweeting, and friending squeezing out hours spent with parents and siblings? Apparently not. Despite the fact that married couples with kids have the opportunity to be in communication with people outside the family 24/7 (they're the most wired households in the country, often enjoying a broadband connection, multiple cell phones, and multiple computers), these families are actually experiencing "a new connectedness" among themselves, according to research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. They call each other more during the day than do other households. They e-mail out-of-town relatives. They relax at home by showing each other funny clips on YouTube or Hulu. (Something that is being squeezed out, actually, is TV time.)

Marion Underwood, the researcher studying kids' social habits, says she's been surprised by how much her kids actually are using the phones to keep in touch with their families. Indeed, when the researchers distributed BlackBerrys to the students, Mom was often the first person a kid texted.

"I never would have guessed that would be the first thing they'd want to do," she says. "I assumed a friend would be the first choice."

"I love texting to get hold of my sons," admits Denver-area mother of two Terri Priday. "And when I'm in a meeting, they can text me and they don't have to wait two hours for an answer. They'd rather text than talk anyway."

In fact, texting is a remarkably efficient way for tweens to interact with their parents. For, on average, eight words or less (judging by the average length of a college student's messages), texts usually get a quick response, reassure Mom you're thinking of her, and keep conversations from turning sticky (either because some issue comes up or because she can hear you're so obviously not at the library).

And some parents are really grateful for that contact. When one father wrote in to the tech-news site CNET to report his son's high text tally -- more than 24,000 pings sent and received in one month, thankfully on an unlimited plan -- he guiltily admitted that among his first reactions had been pride, because his son had exchanged twice as many messages with him as with his mother.