Why Grandparents Should Learn to Text

Younger Generations Are Especially Fond of Communicating Via SMS

A sweet text message from a grandchild can make a grandparent's day. Photo © Images Bazaar | Getty Images

Are you a texting holdout? Do you tend to call your children and grandchildren instead of texting them, only to find that they don't pick up? Do you leave voice mails that are never listened to? Maybe it's time to change your ways.

Texting (also known as SMS or short message service) has these advantages:

  • It's an efficient way to transmit information.
  • It's less obtrusive than talking on the phone. You can do it almost anywhere.
  • The text signal is less disruptive than the ringing of a phone.
  • Text conversations are flexible. You can take a bathroom break, eat a meal, do small tasks, all while carrying on a text conversation.
  • Depending upon your plan and your devices, texting can be cheaper than phone calls.

You may have seen statistics like these:

  • Most teenagers spend 1-2 hours a day texting.
  • About half of teens can text with their eyes closed.
  • The average teen sends over three thousand texts a month.

Although adopting new technology is a great way to stay connected with your teen and tween grandchildren, texting isn't just for the teen set. Texts now outnumber phone calls two to one. And that's for all users, not just teens. For my own adult daughters, I am sure, the rate of texts to phone calls is considerably higher.

The number of texting holdouts goes up dramatically with age. If you are a grandparent and you refuse to text, you still have a good bit of company.

But you have fewer compatriots every day, as more and more grandparents go over to the texting side. 

Equipment for Texting

The easiest and most popular way to text is via smart phone. Phones that have only a numerical keyboard are still capable of sending texts, but it is more time-consuming as you have to push a button 1-4 times to type a single letter.

Some shortcut programs exist that make texting on number pads easier.

You can also send and receive messages on tablets and computers as long as you are connected via wireless or cellular network.

Know Texting Etiquette

If you are new to texting, there's more to learn than how to hit the right buttons. Texting etiquette is important. Here's a quick rundown on acceptable text behavior:

  • Do respond to texts as soon as possible, even if it's just a quick response. (At doctor. Call you later.)
  • If the person you are texting doesn't respond, don't send a string of texts hoping to get a response. There are still a few places where people can't use their phones.
  • If carrying on a texting conversation, wait for a reply before you send another text, so that the back-and-forth nature of conversation is preserved.
  • Don't use a text message to deliver bad news.
  • Be careful about sarcasm and other inflected messages that may not be correctly perceived by the recipient.
  • Before you hit send, be sure that you are texting the right person and not responding to a group email that may have extra recipients.
  • Before you hit send, re-read your message, especially if you have auto-correct. I'm skeptical of some of the funny auto-corrects floating around the web, but it is definitely possible to have your message auto-corrected to something you did not intend to say.
  • If you need to respond to a text while having an actual conversation with someone else, excuse yourself first. And make it quick.

Also, be cautious about how you use group texts. These can be valuable when you need to send an update to a number of people, but they should be used sparingly. Some people don't like the phenomenon that occurs when multiple people start responding to a group text, "blowing up" everyone's phone. If you need to communicate with just one person in a group, start a new thread with that person. Another option is to use the "copy" feature to send the same message to multiple persons. 

Safety First

I hope that everyone has been well-educated about the dangers of texting while driving. Unless the freeway on which you are driving has turned into a parking lot, don't do it.

It can also be dangerous, especially for older people, to text while walking. We can miss curbs, run into obstacles and cause collisions. Also, while texting you are less attuned to your surroundings and more vulnerable to crime. Turn to texting only when you are stationary and in a secure environment.

Conquering Textspeak

Textspeak has been decried by educators, language mavens and ... grandparents. Turning a simple sentence such as "Don't be like that" into "dnt b lk tht" makes the author seem uneducated or lazy, some say. It helps to remember that shortcuts were created for efficiency, because all early texting was done on a number keypad. Also, there was a 160-character limit for texts. (Actually, messages still have the same limit, but your app may break up longer messages and reassemble them for you.) It's no wonder that text users developed shortcuts to convey meaning. 

Just because you text doesn't mean that you have to use textspeak. You also don't have to use emoticons or emoji. But lots of grandparents do.

Learn more about how to text, including using abbreviations and icons.