The ability to spread a message rapidly can be a pitfalls of electronic communications if it is used to bully. But there are benefits to the instantaneous nature of texting, tweeting, emailing, and blogging as well. Here are some real-life applications:

Getting Help

A few months ago, I saw how a teenager used texting to alert his dad to some problems. At the time, I was one of the adult volunteers at a community service day, overseeing teens and tweens. There were multiple stations over a quarter-mile area so that some adults at the event were nearby but not directly supervising each and every child.

Everything was going nicely — the kids were cooperating with each other and kindly assisting what I referred to as "customers" — when I left to run an errand. The atmosphere reversed itself after the arrival of some teens who wanted service hours but didn't really want to work; they were hanging around and setting a poor example for the younger volunteers. The teen in charge alerted his dad to the problems via text message.

Soliciting Advice

My son was at an out-of-town event when he needed advice. Surrounded by people, he didn't have a quiet moment to reflect, much less make a phone call. So, he texted an older friend who has children in college, understands how teens think, and knows how he reasons. This person responded with general direction and then let him sort through the details of his dilemma alone.

Receiving Timely Updates

Youth leaders use Twitter to alert parents to schedule changes and send reminders about important dates. I get tweets as text messages sent to my cell phone so that I stay up-to-date on a moment's notice.

Having a Conversation in Crowded, Noisy Places

Shopping malls, school hallways, and buses can be noisy, making it nearly impossible to carry on a conversation. Instead, kids can text parents with questions or let them know where they are, rather than shout over the phone. They also avoid having others eavesdrop on their conversations.

My husband and I delayed the family's entry into texting for as long as we thought reasonable, blocking this function on the cell phones for a while. But texting seems to be the communication medium of choice when the kids are away from home, so we've learned how these quick messages can help, rather than hinder, safety.

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