Back to articles Instant Messaging: Tips for Setting Limits with your Teen

Categories: Parenting

The popularity of Instant Messaging (IM) has been on the rise for the past ten years and has long replaced email as the zippiest way for children and teens to converse with friends and family.

Messaging is now an integral part of after-school activities, much like watching TV or talking on the phone.  Messages pop up almost instantaneously on the recipient’s communication device to allow for ‘real time’ notification and reply.


While IM is a great communication device for socializing with peers, the education experts at Oxford Learning believe that IM can be detrimental to proper study habits if not used properly.  And, as with any after-school activity, the key is to set house rules that strike a balance between encouraging academic focus and while not ruling out all the fun.

The Education experts at Oxford Learning offer these tips for parents on how to find a happy medium between their children’s love of IM and staying on track to learning success:


·         Be Informed: Take the time to learn about the basics of text messaging with your child.  Have them explain the system to you, what services they use, why they choose to use IM and let them give you a tutorial on how to use it.

·         Discuss the importance of Internet and chat safety with your child.  While a lot of instant messaging conversations are innocent in nature, contacts made over the Internet, and themes discussed over IM, may not be appropriate for your child. Consider laying down “house rules” where your child provides you with his/her IM password so you can be alerted early to potential inappropriate topics or situations.

·         Define specific “chat times” with your child as you would with watching television or talking on the phone.

·         Keep the computer in a common area of the house.  This makes it easier to monitor the amount of time your child spends on IM and to ensure they also spend ample time focusing on schoolwork, too.

·         Reward productive studying time with IM time.  If your child makes great progress studying for a test, or completing an assignment before deadline, allow them to chat with their friends for extra time on IM.

·         If your child is prone to texting friends on his or her cell phone, consider investigating cell phones designed for youth, which are parental controlled and limit the text time allowed on the cell phone.

·         If you suspect that IM is not being used appropriately, invest in one of the many parental supervision programs currently available.  With these programs, you can monitor the minutes your child spends chatting and shut the computer off at a pre-determined time.



For more information on Oxford Learning programs and services in the Durham Region,  please contact their Ajax, Pickering, or Whitby locations.