Want To Reach A Teen? Don’t Email

I first encountered email in college. It was a text based system called PINE. It was so new only a few professors dared to break out of their luddite stereotypes and actually try to use it. Then came the Web and AOL, where “You got mail!” became part of our vernacular and the pop culture (remember the Meg Ryan movie?). For Baby Boomers and Gen Xers (like me), email has become the primary way we communicate at work, keep in touch with friends and family. I still email my grandma up in Maine. Some emails are verbose, going on for paragraphs while others are one line. I remember someone at work telling me the higher up you are in the corporate world the shorter and less coherent your emails get.

For any parents or adults who want to communicate with a teenager using technology, don’t use email. Teens don’t check it that much. According to Extreme Tech, new research by Parks Associates showed that less than one-fifth of the 13-17 year olds surveyed profess to using email to communicate with friends, compared to 40 percent of adults aged 25-54. In fact, when teens do use email these days, it’s usually to communicate with the adults in their lives. What they are using, at least to talk to their friends is instant messaging. They are also using text messaging on cell phones and internal messaging systems on social networks like MySpace or Facebook. They’ll pick up email again when they enter the work world, but right now, it’s the last thing they’ll check.

One parent I interviewed for the book told me she texts her son and loves it — especially when she needs him to pick up something at the store. I think texting your teen is a great way to keep in touch — it’s less intrusive than calling (which some parents will do while their teen is in class!), and will get you a response wherever they are vs. IM which only works when they’re online. If your fingers get tired, you can always try using shorthand, but make sure your teen is using the same acronyms. TTYL.

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