Some Tips for Parents on Using the Internet to Talk to Their Kids

This week we learned that some parents are adept at communicating with their children in the age of iMessage and Gchat. And yet, parents using the Internet will always be parents using the Internet. 

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This week we learned that some parents are adept at communicating with their children in the age of iMessage and Gchat. With young people leading the trend of not using phones as phones, moms have had to adapt to less talk time, which has meant more rambling voicemails for some of us. For others — like those profiled in this Wall Street Journal article — it has meant teaching mom to Gchat, text, or Facebook. To be sure, it's very impressive to see an older generation adapt. And yet, parents using the Internet seem to still be, well, parents using the Internet. From the experiences of The Atlantic Wire staffers at least, we salute the efforts of moms and dads everywhere, but we have some advice for them.

Text Messages Aren't Emails. Since parents only use these tools with a small set of humans, generally, they don't understand the nuances of digital etiquette. For instance, the medium matters. Philip Bump's dad, for example, writes "essentially blog-posts-via-text," when text messages are supposed to be short, more like phone conversations than letters. Allie Jones, one of our fellows, says of her text-loving mom, "She doesn’t get that you can actually have a conversation with it. She will send a long text detailing what’s going on in the day, and then I’ll respond, and then she’ll forget to check her phone and never respond."

Facebook Isn't a Blog. Speaking of longform, some parents think that an empty box on the Internet is an invitation to write an essay. Internet consultant Eric Spiegelman, for example, had this to tweet recently:

Again, the whole digital etiquette thing is lost on parents even though it is often be endearing. "My dad comments on all my Facebook posts, with some typical Dad humor," said Eric Levenson, another of our fellows. "I kind of like it though, it usually makes me laugh."

No 'Lingo' Required In an attempt to be hip to the jive, some parents try to learn the language of their kids. One: We don't talk like that. And two: You're doing it wrong. My mom uses the letter 2 for to, and u for you. But, I think it's genuinely to save time because she has a feature phone and doesn't use the predictive text.

"My mother is a frequent texter, which is handy, but she has sort of invented her own lingo that I still don't quite understand," said Richard Lawson. "In the beginning of her texting career, she made the common mistake of thinking that 'LOL' means lots of love, so for a long time I thought she was signing off of text conversations with laughter." Mother Lawson has taken it to a new level, of late, though:

But lately she'll send me questions about various characters on Game of Thrones or other Sunday night shows using strange abbreviations and acronyms. She works with the military sometimes, so maybe it's Army code? If so, she probably shouldn't be using it to ask me who Dexter is talking to at any given moment.

Don't Get Too Complicated with Twitter. You're already at expert level Internetting (for a parent) if you've made it to Twitter. So, there's no need to try and get fancy, lest you end up hurting yourself, like our fellow Zach Schonfeld's dad. "He still doesn't understand the difference between the hashtag and @ symbols. So he tweets stuff like 'Great article about rising college tuition @college @education @expensive.'" That's endearing from over here, where it's only being such a dad. But on the Internet, not everyone knows you're a dad.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help. The coolest parent knows when to get useful tips and tricks from their children. "I taught my mom keyboard shortcuts the other day," said Elspeth Reeve. "We were talking on the phone, and she really wanted to show me a dress she wanted me to buy, but she didn't know how to show it to me. Then I told her about control-C and control-V, and talked her through emailing me the link. It was magic."

See most of you make things harder for yourselves out of pride — you want to know how to use the Internet just like us. Well, just ask.

Photo by Carissa Rogers via Flickr.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.