The Benefits of Dad-Texts

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At dinner with friends over the weekend, the subject of parent-texting came up. The table was split: Some people thought it was a great way to be able to send quick messages to your parents without having to call — “home safe love you gnight” — while others, whose parents had not yet embraced this mode of communication, were worried about opening a Parent-dora’s box of endless text communications, if you’ll excuse the terrible early Monday pun. A study out of the University of Kansas recently published in Emerging Adulthood supports the pro-parent-texting camp: People who communicate with their parents along multiple channels are (slightly) happier with their relationships with them.

To the press release:

Schon had 367 adults between the ages of 18 and 29 fill out a survey on what methods of communications they used to connect with their parents, how often they used the technology and how satisfied they were in their relationship with mom and dad. Among other items, communication methods included landline phones, cell phones, texting, instant messaging, Snapchat, email, video calls, social networking sites and online gaming networks.

[…] In most relationships, the research shows that adding an additional channel of communication has a modest increase in relationship quality and satisfaction. On average, participants reported using about three channels to communicate with parents.

[…] Schon said a parent’s basic communication competency, in other words, their ability to get a message across effectively and appropriately, is the best indicator for how happy the child is in the relationship. Parents who are already strong communicators won’t see much of a difference by adding another way to communicate. Parents who were seen as poor communicators benefited the most from adding another communication tool.

So it doesn’t look like teaching your parents how to text message will magically improve your relationship with them if it isn’t already good. Rather, it might be that when parent-child relationships are already strong, parents have a good sense of which platform to use for which communication, when to just send a few words rather than start a long conversation, and so on. As is so often the case, it seems like technology might be reflecting and amplifying preexisting social and familial dynamics here more than anything.

Also, maybe this is because I am outside the app’s target age range, but I find it really weird that anyone would communicate with their parents via Snapchat.