how to get your kids started with texting: texting 101

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How to get your kids started with texting cover


Texting is big.

For tweens, it’s really big.  It’s like the coolest thing ever.

And everyone is doing it (or so they think), and so Maddy has asked for months and months and months to have her very own phone so she can text her friends.  Share photos.  Do all the things she thinks every other 9 year old in the world can do except her.

Quite frankly, my husband and I aren’t ready to get her a phone because we don’t think she needs one–and at 9 years old, she really doesn’t.  We also don’t want to buy her an iTouch just because the other kids have one; we have two iPads in the house, so we don’t feel like we need another device.

It’s tough—a fine line for parents between creating rules and boundaries with technology and supporting them gently by guiding kids into a safe spot.

So this weekend, we took a big step (for us) into the big time: we got our kids started with texting.

We set the kids up with texting on an older phone, and now they are flying high, feeling good, happy little birds.  Like they’re riding the technology cruise ship.

And it’s a start.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Get Your Kids Started with Texting:  We’ve got our kids set up texting on a freebie platform on our old MyTouch phone.

We created a collaborative account for Maddy, Owen, and Cora under TextPlus Free account.  It’s free, and there are ads, so be forewarned.

get kids started with texting

 The kids’ phone which functions only as an android device and not a phone, phone.

However, our kids are pretty good about not touching ads in freebie games, and at 9, 7, and 6, they have a pretty firm understanding that if they touch these ads on purpose, their time online is over.

You need to be careful with TextPlus Free, though, as the ads run in a bar right under the texting box.  With this program, users get a number to text from, so we shared that number with aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

Then I added each person to the contact list under names the kids would recognize: Grandma cell, Nanny cell, Aunt Mary, Mom cell, etc.

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Yes, the phone needs a little cleaning. . .

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. . . but the kids don’t care.

Our goal with this was simple:

  • to give the kids a bit of controlled freedom as they communicate with family members and friends that we agree upon;
  • to let them have the feeling they have their own technological ‘space’ to have games that we decide upon and to take photos;
  • to give them a chance to show us that they can handle this bit of technological freedom and room to breathe.


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As protective, first-time parents, we (okay, I) was totally freaking out about this step, so we :

  • set the settings to the loudest spots so we could hear them texting and knew when new texts came in;
  • have a rule that the phone stays in the house and on our main living area, not downstairs or in bedrooms;
  • require that the kids turn off the phone each night and are careful with charging it;
  • removed all programs we could that were not relevant for the kids;

It’s understood that we’re reading along with them, and our first and foremost message was that texting is the same as talking–you interact with respect, kindness, and manners.


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We’re learning as we go.

Serious parental learning going on over here, but we feel pretty good about this first baby step as we support our kids with this big step: it’s texting 101, parent-style.  Though I use technology every day–many of us do–it is just so important that we walk our kids through these steps instead of throwing them in headfirst or just assuming they know how to handle it.

our digital kids

Are our kids young for this? Probably. But it’s a different day and age, folks, and we’re doing the best we can.


What am I missing? Please let me know if you’ve been here before and if you have advice to share.  Leave ideas in the comments, please!

This post is part of my series: Digital Kids– Teaching, Supporting, and Parenting 21st Century Learners


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  1. Dana says

    I am sooooo glad we are not there yet! Although several friends are–she went to a sleepover a few months ago and the mom asked the girls to leave their electronics at home. I didn’t even think about it but the mom told me several of them text! Wow! I had no clue! So, this article will help when the time comes!

    • says

      Dana! So crazy, right? Glad the mom suggested leaving electronics at home–SO important. And funny that my kids haven’t even started w/ sleepovers yet. Different stages, and different interests in each community! When you take the plunge, let me know how it goes, my friend!

  2. erin says

    Yes! It is important to know that while you may set all these great guidelines, not everyone does. We had no idea that the sweet girl that spent the night had brought her phone out, was texting in mybdaughter’s room, looking at video with explicit lyrics, etc. My daughter was in a very difficult position. Now we make it clear to the parents that we want the kids to have kid time and that if they need to contact their child, to contact me.

    • says

      oh my gosh, Erin. HOW stressful. Sorry that happened. So tell me–do you just make it clear that the child isn’t free to bring cellphones to your home? How do you do it? This is new to me, and I’m thinking I’ll do the same.. thanks!

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