Coach Your Teen to Communicate Without Using Digital - Bruce Kirkpatrick
Bruce Kirkpatrick is a contemporary author of fiction and non-fiction stories.
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Teenager on digital devise

Coach Your Teen to Communicate Without Using Digital

We are raising a generation that communicates better with their mobile phones than with their mouths. On the surface this may not seem like a big deal. But studies show that once these children enter into dating relationships and the workplace, it is a very big deal.

You have probably heard that millenials are the generation of instant gratification.  Digital delivers that. A few examples:

  • If they want a reaction from a friend, about anything, they send a text. Boom! Text back.
  • If they want to see a movie, they don’t need to look up start times at theaters or plan their day around going to the movies, they stream it on their tablet.
  • Nuff said.


This instant gratification in and of itself is not bad. But it teaches that anything is available instantly—and when that generation and your teenager—finds out that is not true, they are not well prepared to cope.

Two specific situations—one first experienced in the teen years and one realized later when young adults enter the workforce—illustrate the point.

Relationship. As teens begin to develop relationships with other teens and experiment with dating, they have been trained to expect communication to flow easily and effortlessly. Because it does on a cellphone. (LOL, shm, imho, cute…). They are ill-prepared to deal with the messiness of relationship—the ups and downs, the lack of talking and expressing feelings, the fear of saying the wrong thing or having it misinterpreted. That’s why many junior and senior high relationships are so strained these days. They simply have not learned to talk with their mouths. They have been using their thumbs too long. And when they put the phone down and look into somebody’s eyes, they are lost, they cannot communicate.

You may say that teens have always had troubling communicating in boy/girl relationships. Yes, you’re right—and it’s even worse now.

Work Satisfaction. When the instant gratification young adult enters the workforce, they expect instant success. They want to “make a difference” or “have an impact” at the company they work for—and they want to do it right now. When this doesn’t happen—and it rarely does—they become disillusioned and disappointed. After all, they have led a life that says they can receive immediate satisfaction. In the realm of career, you have to work for success; you have to acquire skills to meet expectations; you have to learn from your mistakes. All of that takes time.

With most corporations now often more concerned with making their quarterly numbers and less concerned with nurturing and training young adults, this realization can be shocking. They don’t know how to communicate with their boss or their cohorts. It probably contributes to some degree why young adults in their 20s are back home living with their parents. And those statistics are rising.

Here are a few ideas—call them rules if you want to—to help the teen learn to live in a world not focused on the phone.

  • The phone does not accompany the teen to: the dinner table, a restaurant, a movie theater or on a date.
  • When a group of friends gather together, phones don’t go. (Or maybe just one, for emergencies).
  • If you need to punish your teen for anything, make the punishment a loss of phone privileges.
  • Delay giving a phone to a teen until a more appropriate age.
  • Do not allow the child to take the phone to school.
  • Monitor their phone.
  • No using the phone while doing homework.
  • No charging the phone in the teenager’s bedroom overnight.
  • No phone communication after a predetermined time at night.


We must teach our children to communicate with their mouths and their brains. We have to tell them the perils of constant digital use. Parents, you may have grown up in front of a television and that probably produced bad habits, curbing your ability to connect with people. Today’s teens are even more addicted to their devices than you were to that box. They begin to suffer with this as a child, it will affect all of their relationships, and certainly could disturb their careers and their ability to achieve and succeed. Okay, scared yet? Good. Now go talk with your teen—and leave your phone behind.

(This is an excerpt from a chapter from an upcoming book, Raising Awesome Teens: 33 Strategies to Teach Your Teen to Grow Up Self-Reliant, Confident and Responsible. The chapter details all of the bullet points above in greater depth).

1 Comment
  • victor wong
    Posted at 22:03h, 21 June

    Well said, I hope more parents take note. My little girl will be caught in the middle of this social change. I guess I am in that email and AOL IM generation and probably could use better tack and technique. So I appreciate the read. They say we are X but I do admit preferring texting lately to amplify my availability and efficiency, I am sure it has it’s price. Still contemplating what the real pros and cons are regarding your observations. Love to hear from everyone how better to work on it, Your suggestions for kids with phones are great, and I think we all should try it, I need to read more articles like yours, if I am to grow, mentor and lead. I wanted to contribute that the early boomers could meet these next generations half way by using and understanding these new technologies more to bridge the gap. There is too much of a smart phones divide with my parents. My parents, being Asian American, have the propensity to avoid the whole tech age altogether which is not helpful.

    Thanks Bruce,