Digital Screens and Our Youth: What is Happening with Group Text?

One of the greatest commitments of the teacher is to foster the building of deep community in the classroom. Young people need guidance in so many areas. One especially critical focus of a teacher is on how students speak to one another.

For all of us, the words we speak require attention, care, and refinement over the course of our lives. It is natural for young people to express themselves spontaneously and without filters. It is one of the jobs of the teacher to help kids find appropriate ways to speak, to give them awareness, to interrupt unhealthy dialogue, and unpack hurtful words. Conversations with confusing messages can create lasting fissures in the community if they are not tended quickly.

Children usually mean well, but lack both the tools to express themselves effectively, and an understanding of the impact of impulsive communication. So teachers must pay very careful attention to what kids are saying. And they must intervene often. However, there is a new problem in our digital age.

It is extremely concerning for those of us in the business of building community. It is a problem without precedent. Today’s youth have Smartphones. But that’s not all. They also use those phones for group texts (or ‘chats’). Ask your child if they are part of a group text. If they have a smartphone, they probably are. The conversations on a group chat can happen anywhere and anytime, if students have their phones.

Much of this is out of ‘earshot’ of parents, teachers, or other thoughtful adults. When conflicts arise in a group text, something that happens more often than people realize, there is usually no adult present to intervene and support constructive healing. When kids return to the classroom, there can be secret fissures that remain untended. This is a very new problem, maybe two or three years old, and it is wildly unprecedented for those of us seeking to foster deep and connected communities.

Please enter the dialogue with us. Please talk to your child. Please consider where privacy should be honored, for a child needs privacy. However, can young people have privacy in their written diaries, or in personal phone calls and conversations, but have their group texts read by adults? A group has a different dynamic than a one-on-one conversation. A digital group chat is an even more complex dynamic. This is a new frontier and we parents are all navigating it. Here is an article to begin expanding our thinking.