Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Joy of Communicating with Teens

The Joy of Communicating With Teens © 2009 By Lynn Rebuck

Anyone who has raised teens or been around a teen for more than a few minutes knows this universal truth---teens truly speak a different language. And today it’s more technology-based and harder than ever to get their attention.

How do you communicate with a kid who is text messaging on a cellphone, playing Guitar Hero while Wii-fitting on a balance board and battling on World of Warcraft?

Teens today are immersed in a culture of constant instantaneous connection, and although the exchanges are often brief and coded, they have been known to continue all night (has your child ever awakened for school the next morning with cellphone still in hand, and a caller still on the line?).

Most American teenagers speak English with a dialect---or, as I call it, a "dialectronics."

Everything today is based on text-messaging, instant messaging, social networking on Twitter and Facebook, and whatever the next fad to come through the internet “pipeline” will be. And we have Al Gore to thank for it all.

Despite the technological advances, we parents still have the same basic challenge: get kids to do chores, finish homework, and be responsible. So we need to learn to speak their language.

Keep in mind, the average attention span of a teen is negative 3 seconds. If you want a teenager to do something, you have to actually finish saying what you need to say before you started saying it. Otherwise, you get the eye-roll.

Granted, at times is seems that trying to convey a message to teens, especially if it involves work or movement of any kind, is like walking into a foreign country with high expectations only to have your sincere efforts at communication met with blank stares. Gestures are ineffective.
So, in an effort to improve communication between parents and teens, I am offering a few phrases to help. Remember parents, no matter what chore you need done, phrase it in computer terms.
Here’s how a recent conversation with my teen went:
Technologically-challenged Mom: “I need you to upload the laundry.”
Texting Teen: tap, tap, tap, tap…
Type-A Mom: “You need to download the dishwasher.”
Texting and Computer-playing Teen: tap, tap, tap, tap…
Tired Mom: “You need to stream the shower and post your towel when you’re done.”
Texting Teen who just signed on to Xbox 360: “I’ll do that in the morning.”
Frustrated but still-trying Mom: “Put the lid back on the toothpaste YouTube and don’t forget to Google with mouthwash.”
Texting Teen whose phone is ringing: “I’m not gonna, the sink is gross.”
About-to-Explode Mom: “The sink is backed up. Something is blogging the drain and I need you to delete the gunk in the trap under the sink.”
Texting Teen who just got Twittered: “No way.” Tap...tap...tap…
Determined Mom: “And another thing: “Don’t park your car in MySpace in the driveway. Park it on the street. “
Our parents relied on Dr. Spock for parenting advice. I think our generation needs advice from Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.
After an hour of trying, I did the chores myself and mumbled, “Beam me up, Scotty. I think my communicator’s broken."
Lynn Rebuck writes a weekly humor column for the Lititz Record Express. You can email her at