Is 10,000 texts a month crazy?
February 3, 2011 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Looking at my phone bill, I see my daughter, 18, is averaging over 10,000 texts/mo over the past five months.

I'll do the math for you. Allowing for 8 hours sleep, that's about 20 per hour, every waking hour.

That 5mo period covers her first semester away at college, but glancing back further in the billing indicates nothing unusual about that usage level for her.

Should I be concerned? Is this amount of texting extreme for kids her age? In high school she had trouble focusing (texting, FB) and her college grades were mediocre last term (2 Ds, 2.4 GPA). I'm seriously considering getting her into counseling to help her deal with distractions, based on her grades and her texting. Am I overreacting?
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (73 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a normal amount of texting for someone her age.

You should still do something about those grades.
posted by reductiondesign at 8:48 AM on February 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

Counseling? Probably overreacting.

Turning off the unlimited texting? Probably. That's an absurd number.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:51 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

i think the amount of texts is "normal" for someone her age. how were her grades before college? i'd say her grades are not the "problem" but perhaps something else is going on with her, if they have changed dramatically since high school.
posted by anya32 at 8:51 AM on February 3, 2011

10k sounds like a lot. I'm 25. I have about 1500 texts + ~100 BBM messages per month. I usually have around 60 calling minutes per month.
posted by KevCed at 8:55 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm 22, have a lot of extremely communications-obsessed friends and 20 an hour seems way out to the right of the bell curve to me.

Who cares what's normal? What kind of education could you get with interruptions to sustained thinking every three minutes? What kind of life could you live?
posted by phrontist at 8:55 AM on February 3, 2011 [22 favorites]

I send around 6000 a month and usually receive 5000 or so. So that's about right. However, I did manage to put my phone as a secondary need behind my grades. Using her cellphone plan as a carrot with regards to raising her grades is probably a good idea.
posted by msbutah at 8:56 AM on February 3, 2011

I'm seriously considering getting her into counseling

For a child that is no longer living at home, I think this is outside the bounds of what is appropriate. She's not dying or severely depressed (as far as you've told us). This is a chance for you to practice letting her live her own life. Give her another semester to see if things improve- it is possible some of her subjects were particularly difficult 1st semester. Should her grades still be terrible, then it might be time to speak with her about what she'd like to do. As for the texting, I would just ignore it; you have no proof it's related to her grades. If you really can't do that, you might offer her the opportunity to pay her own bill.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:56 AM on February 3, 2011 [22 favorites]

Contrary to popular belief, one can function without text messages. Trade in her phone for a basic, old Nokia that has no text messaging capability. She'll have DTs for a little while, but she'll survive.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:57 AM on February 3, 2011

Does that include received texts? If so, you have to keep in mind that she likely has facebook and / or twitter notifying her constantly, and not every message requires a response.

If that is pure outgoing, then I would consider that to be a large amount... at least on the high end of the bell curve of "normal" for someone her age.

It sounds like you are paying this bill, otherwise you wouldn't know about it, so the idea to take away the unlimited texting plan is a bad one... it won't result in less texts, it will result in a gigantic bill.
posted by utsutsu at 8:57 AM on February 3, 2011 [21 favorites]

Seems freakish to me, but I'm 40 and introverted. My guess is that attacking the texting habit would just get you into a fruitless debate. The grades are probably where you need to focus your efforts.
posted by jon1270 at 8:57 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think the grades and the texting are two different issues.

For my peers, we spend most of our high school on AOL instant messenger. We talked for hours every night. These days, smart phones and unlimited plans have just gone to replace the instant messenger programs -- a text doesn't have the same weight that it used to. So, while I spent my time on my family's desk top typing out my messages, your daughter is spend hers typing the messages on her phone. Not that big of a difference in my opinion.

The grades are another issue, and it could be wholly unrelated to her social habits. College is hard and different. Talk to her about her grades, but don't try to find an explanation. Don't threaten to cut her off from her phone plan. Treat her like an adult and see if you two can figure out what's going on together.
posted by Think_Long at 8:58 AM on February 3, 2011 [9 favorites]

Is that just incoming texts or both incoming/outgoing? That's not an unusual amount of texts really, especially considering how quick and abbreviated texts can be.

A lot of college freshman screw up the first semester. It's a combination of the freedom, immaturity, lack of discipline and not having your parents right over your head. If she doesn't have any learning disabilities that are unaddressed (facebook and texting are not learning disabilities), then she needs to prioritize her education over social life. She doesn't necessarily need counseling, more like a nice hard talk about "If you screw this up and fail out of college, you're on your own. We're not throwing good money after bad. This is on you. Get your ass in gear and dig out of the hole you're in or you're going to have to find a full time job, pay rent and support yourself."
posted by jerseygirl at 8:59 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think it's not unusual for some kids, i.e. it is not some sign of OCD or something, but it's still too many. If you get rid of unlimited texting, you'll have to disable the phone from sending and receiving them, if the carrier will do that. Otherwise, you'll just wind up with a 4 digit phone bill.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:59 AM on February 3, 2011

A report last year from the Pew Internet & American Life project found:
Half of teens send 50 or more text messages a day, or 1,500 texts a month, and one in three send more than 100 texts a day, or more than 3,000 texts a month. Older teen girls ages 14-17 lead the charge on text messaging, averaging 100 messages a day for the entire cohort.*
So while 3000 would probably still be "normal" for a girl her age, 10,000 in one month is probably well outside the typical range. But based on your question, my guess would be that the texting is a symptom of whatever is causing her to have trouble focusing. It certainly can't be helping her grades. Counseling could help to figure out what the underlying cause is.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:01 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think you're well within your rights as a parent to demand a certain GPA as a condition for continued financial support. If she can text that much and keep her grades up, that's her prerogative.

I would bring up your concerns about how dominant an aspect of her life this seems to be though.
posted by phrontist at 9:02 AM on February 3, 2011

On preview, I agree, though that if 1/2 of those text are incoming, then that puts her back closer to the high end of the normal range.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:04 AM on February 3, 2011

Turning off the unlimited texting? Probably. That's an absurd number.

DON'T follow that advice. If you don't have unlimited texting, your daughter won't really care and won't change her behavior, and you'll be charged body parts for overages on text message limits.
posted by Billiken at 9:11 AM on February 3, 2011 [15 favorites]

I would ask her if she's aware that she can selectively turn off notifications from Facebook (she can get them via email, and it will be waiting for her if, heaven forbid, she should have to use the bathroom*).

She can do the same with Twitter, opting to receive txt messages from only close friends. I do get a Twitter from people who mention my Twitter handle, even if I don't normally receive their messages via phone.

Maybe this can open the door for some needed discussion, if she has other stuff going on.

* Not meant to be snarky: I often have to remind myself that life goes on and I won't miss anything earth-shattering if I don't check (name of website) for a few hours, and that it's good for me to not be connected all the time.
posted by SillyShepherd at 9:13 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

DON'T follow that advice. If you don't have unlimited texting, your daughter won't really care and won't change her behavior, and you'll be charged body parts for overages on text message limits.

I didn't mean it in that sense. I meant disable the texting.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:14 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are two versions of this to think about:
1) Is this so high that she probably has a psychiatric problem? No.
2) Is this so high that she is probably is distracted during classes, study, and homework time? Yes.

The natural response is to turn them off or limit them, but if she has a laptop she can do the exact same self-distracting. It might be helpful to be able to take away the temptation during boring lectures by removing cell phone capability. Some time with the study-skills people at her institution is probably appropriate, because those are bad grades for a first-year, whose classes tend to be easy.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:15 AM on February 3, 2011

I think the level is a bit high. I understand that about 3000-4000 texts a month is average.

I have an 18 year old ADD son who at about 3800 texts per month sent (and about the same number received) saw dramatically reduced grades and lost a tremendous amount of sleep when he was texting so heavily. A few months before final exams I told him he could cut back significantly on his own, or I would enforce it by taking away his phone and limiting his FB and IM time. It turned out that's what we did. I took his phone away after 7:00 pm and returned it when he left for school. I insisted that he change his passwords his FB and IM accounts to a password that only I had. I would log him in to FB and IM for about an hour after his homework was done, and ensure he was logged out by 11:00 pm.

As it happens, he gave me no grief over this as he realized that he wasn't capable of controlling his electronic social life and the consequences were becoming dire. I suspect that this is highly unusual. His grades came back up, he won $1700 in scholarships, and he's in far more control now.

I don't think you're over-reacting but I'm over 50 so am in a different cultural mindset than many/most. I'd intervene for sure, but would start out small (kitchen table talk) and only escalate to outside counselling as the prior interventions proved ineffective.

I also agree that you'll be looking at phone bills upwards of $500 per month if you drop unlimited texting from your plan.
posted by angiep at 9:15 AM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

The people I know who have unlimited texting treat them like an IM. A text may be a smiley face or "k". They have no problem sending 5 texts in a row. And they are texting multiple people at the same time. If you think of it like that, 20 texts per hour is probably on the low side.

Older gen people tend to think of texting as short email, which is why these numbers sound ridiculous. But think of how many times you hit enter in GChat, and it seems much more normal.
posted by smackfu at 9:16 AM on February 3, 2011 [5 favorites]

depending on your phone service, they might bill IMs as text messages in which case, totally normal! even if it's just texts, if it includes incoming and outgoing, it still seems normal. it's just the way we communicate these days...
posted by katypickle at 9:16 AM on February 3, 2011

Ask yourself this - would you be as concerned about the number of texts if she was getting all A's and B's?

My guess is no, which suggests that the real concern here is whatever's causing the issue with her grades. That may or may not be related to the number of texts she's sending, but the grades are the main issue and the texts are a secondary one. Given that, you might want to avoid focusing on the texting when you discuss your concerns with her, as it's liable to make her feel extremely defensive and potentially even "spied" on (nb: I don't think you're being overly invasive, but I'm just imagining how I would have felt at 18-19 in her shoes.)

I agree it sounds like she has a focus or attentional issue. Taking the texting plan away without addressing that underlying issue will just cause her to find other distractions. Talk to her frankly, lay out your concerns, and ask for her opinion - does she think seeing someone would be helpful in obtaining good time management and study habits? If she doesn't take your discussion seriously, you can figure out your next step from there, but treating her like an adult will go a long way towards keeping her defensive walls down.
posted by superfluousm at 9:16 AM on February 3, 2011

If this number includes received, then it's definitely possible. It's a lot more than I (male, 19 year old college student) use, but seems possible. Sometimes texts can be like IM as far as speed of communication, and so it's possible to send/receive, say, 10/minute to and from various people. A 10 minute period devoted to texting would allow for 100 messages, and if that happened once per day you're already at 3k.

Why don't you ask her about her texting habits? You don't have to make it in her face or anything, but I think I'd respond to my parents asking "Hey, that's a lot of texts, I'm curious as an old person/non-texter/whatever how exactly that happens."
posted by papayaninja at 9:16 AM on February 3, 2011

I don't have a good sense about the total (I've no problem getting by with 200 a month) but if you're having a bit of conversation it's easy to blow through 20 texts in an hour.

Does your bill show you when the texts are being sent?
posted by leahwrenn at 9:17 AM on February 3, 2011

You could always shift the responsibility of the phone bill onto her. She is an adult, after all.
posted by theraflu at 9:18 AM on February 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

Nthing finding out whether that's outgoing texts or total texts. Facebook, twitter, phone companies, schools, and even banks and public transit can send notifications by texts. So if that number includes outgoing and incoming, and she has signed up for notifications, she may only have sent 1/3 or 1/4 of those texts and the rest just came in.

Is it a problem? Only if you have some evidence that it's a problem, such as carpal tunnel symptoms or her own admission that text conversations interrupt her studies. It sounds like you have some evidence that this is an issue, but make it about the GPA, because that's the real issue. If you are going to work with her (rather than let her figure it out on her own), focus on her GPA. That makes you a concerned and reasonable parent with a legitimate concern - GPA. If you focus on the texts, that's completely arbitrary, and you'll rightfully come off as a "This is new to me, and I fear it!" type. I mean, if she studies like a madperson next semester and gets a 4.0, who cares if she texts like fiend in all of her free time?
posted by Tehhund at 9:19 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

She's being too social to study. Texting is a symptom, not the problem.

I think you're overreacting. Who cares how much she texts? If you want to make her pay for her texts, that would be completely reasonable. But texting is cheap, and it's how teens communicate and as someone mentioned above — a huge chunk of that could be from Facebook. Worry about the grades, and if she's really so concerned with texting she can't study (a concept I, as a 22-year-old, find laughable) then go from there.

To my young adult mind, saying she's texting too much thus you're going to cut it off is like saying she's talking too much and then covering her mouth with tape.
posted by good day merlock at 9:23 AM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

A couple of years back, my dad about went into apoplexy when he got the phone bill for the month of my brother's first round of college finals. There were a little over 5000 outgoing (I have no idea how many incoming).

Yeah, unfortunately that number seems very normal, though maybe on the high end of normal. But I agree with others that your focus here shouldn't be (solely) the texting. Your focus here should be the grades, which may or may not have anything to do with the texting.

(If you're interested, I self-describe as a person who "does not text," and I just checked and it looks like I've sent/received around 70 text messages in the last month. If you had asked me before, I would have guessed around 10. These things just have a way of piling up.)
posted by phunniemee at 9:24 AM on February 3, 2011

Contrary to popular belief, a cell phone is not actually a necessity like food, clothing, and shelter. (Don't get me wrong, I definitely text, too. But on days I forget it at home, or the battery dies, my heart doesn't stop beating.) She might find it's not as much fun if she has to pay for it herself.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 9:27 AM on February 3, 2011

Wow, I can't imagine getting anything done at all while texting that much. I generally send either 1 or 2 a day...

However, maybe texting isn't her problem. I think the thing to do is talk to her about why she's having trouble with her classes and work with that. If the texting/distraction issue is really interfering with her work, she's probably not happy with it, either.
posted by Cygnet at 9:31 AM on February 3, 2011

I just asked a friend with a teen daughter who's a high-achieving student and a good kid and dates and spends too much time with her BFF and has a part-time job and is my general benchmark for a pretty normal teenager who doesn't get in serious trouble how many texts her daughter has a month, and she said, "Oh, about 10,000."

She says her daughter does get facebook alerts by SMS and is in the middle of several poke wars, which really drives up the totals.

(I'd also add that she doesn't turn her phone on during school hours and has it on silent at work and does not text during work hours. So a HUGE portion of these texts are like one-word or one-character texts to get so many in during the remaining hours!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:31 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't make it about the texts. I'd make it about the grades. College is a weird age for many American kids and their parents. It's hard not to think of it as an extended version of high school, but that becomes unproductive very quickly as the 18- or 19-year-old starts to think, "I'm too old for you to 'be disappointed' with my grades and try to micromanage my life--I'm in college, I'm supposed to be having fun!" and the parents start to think, "We're paying your tuition, we get a say in how seriously you take your education!" I'd suggest bringing this up at a more adult level--almost like a professional performance review.

Figure out what your expectations are--a certain level GPA? no grades lower than a C? Then, figure out your suggestions for how she can meet those expectations--get assessed for ADHD? see a therapist? attend study skills workshops (nearly all colleges have these)? Then, figure out what the consequence(s) will be if she fails to meet those expectations, with a timeline (i.e., one semester with unacceptable grades, she's on warning and doesn't get entertainment/cell phone money from you; second semester with unacceptable grades, you stop paying her tuition).

I don't mean for that to sound like punishment for bad behavior. I mean for it to be an adult discussion between you and your daughter: "In exchange for college tuition and paying your living expenses, we expect XYZ in terms of grades. We will support your efforts to achieve those grades by paying for counseling, time management classes, etc., but we expect you achieve better results than you've shown in your first semester."
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:33 AM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

> wats up?
< chillin'
< u?
> not much
> u goin to the game tonite?
< yeah
< want to meet up?
> sure
> where?
< diner
< 6pm?
> class. 7?
< sounds good
> gotta run
< see ya

15 texts, and they didn't even talk about who else was going to be there. Entire time for discussion? Maybe two minutes. So maybe your daughter is texting Moby Dick to her friends, but it's more likely that she (and her friends) just do bursts of really short texts, which ends up being a large number of individual messages but not really a lot of words. (You could fit all of that into four messages, which would look better on your phone bill but wouldn't be any faster.)

Oh, and the poor grades? Caused by socializing, sure, but not specifically the medium of texting.
posted by anaelith at 9:36 AM on February 3, 2011 [30 favorites]

How about stop paying for her phone. once shes in college she wants a cell she pays for it herself.

This will also help her with her grades.
posted by majortom1981 at 9:39 AM on February 3, 2011

That cited Pew report is old data. 10,000 is the high end of normal these days. Some people socialize more than would be ideal instead of studying as much as you'd like, but it's not about whether she's texting, or talking on the phone or hanging out IRL.
posted by tyllwin at 9:42 AM on February 3, 2011

I'd focus on the grades. Set some expectations or limits with attached consequences, offer your perspective on what may be contributing to her academic difficulties, suggest avenues for improving her habits, but let her figure out how to get herself straightened out.

Counseling seems like an extreme place to start, and unlikely to be productive unless she wants to go. If she wanted to change her habits and tried repeatedly and failed on her own, that might make sense (at her initiative) in the same way that counseling can be helpful to an addict who doesn't know how to quit on their own. The more likely scenario is that she is fully capable of using her time more productively and getting better grades, but just hasn't had sufficient motivation up until now to buckle down.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 9:44 AM on February 3, 2011

anaelith has it right. The kid just doesn't understand that each one-word burst is a separate text message with a separate cost. Moreover, she doesn't understand the time being spent doing this.

Counseling? No. Sit her down and talk? Yes.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:45 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think I text that much and I regularly break 2,000 a month. This is with being 27 and only having a couple people I regularly text with.

Think of it as a regular conversation, not as some magic weird Other. It's replaced talking on the phone for a lot of people, and you need to think of it as such. How many statements do you make in a 1 minute conversation? A lot. 10,000 lots, I'll bet, over the course of the month. Not a big deal!
posted by soma lkzx at 9:45 AM on February 3, 2011

The kid just doesn't understand that each one-word burst is a separate text message with a separate cost.

If you are sending 10k texts without an unlimited text plan, it would cost around $1000. I don't think the money is the concern here.
posted by smackfu at 9:52 AM on February 3, 2011

Something that might be interesting it to look at the times that she sends texts, which hopefully you receive on the bill or can look at online. If it happens all day, including her 'study time,' then it may be impacting her GPA (reiterating: GPA is the issue; texting is not). But if you find that she has short bursts of texting activity around lunch and dinner, that's less of an issue. Maybe you could look for times of day that she sends 0 texts. That could indicate that she is ignoring the incoming texts and studying. If there is no break in her outgoing texts, then she's probably letting it get in the way of class and studying.

Moreover, day of the week may be important: if 70% of her texts happen on Friday and Saturday, then it's less of a problem.

This probably isn't a big deal, but I think that texts sent to multiple people count as 1 text per person. She may be a serial multi-texter, which could skew her numbers slightly. But I can't imagine having an entire conversation with more than 1 person since, unlike email, you can't tell if other people received the same text you received.

Also, a warning about getting too heavy-handed about blocking her texting ability: she could just sign up for a Google Voice account and get free text messages on any phone that works with Google Voice. There are probably other ways to circumvent reduced or blocked texting. So instead of of turning this into a texting fight, I will reiterate my stance that his should be about GPA.
posted by Tehhund at 10:00 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

another thing to keep in mind, is that for some combinations of phones and service providers, anything that goes through the default Instant Messaging app (including MSN/yahoo/AIM/etc) is counted as a text.

I got bit by this on AT&T one month.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 10:01 AM on February 3, 2011

Wait, this is an adult in college and you're enabling her ADHD-Lifestyle by funding it?

And instead of cutting off the drug source and forcing herself to become more self-sufficient, you want to pay more money for counseling?

Anyway, on a family plan, just get rid of texting and block all text/messages to avoid the bill, or spin her number off and have her pay for herself. Yes, that's way too much useless texting.
posted by Ky at 10:06 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

For the people who want the daughter to pay for it-- unlimited texting is generally only about $10 a month when it's added onto a regular talking plan (in my case, at least). This issue doesn't really have anything to do with the cost. Sure, she could pay for it, but it wouldn't really make any difference.

10,000 is a lot but I agree with most of the other people on this thread that it's not abnormal. If she's pretty evenly spacing them out, it might be more a cause for worry, since she's interrupting whatever she's doing to send them, but she's probably not.
posted by geegollygosh at 10:23 AM on February 3, 2011

I really like angiep's advice.

I'd intervene for sure, but would start out small (kitchen table talk) and only escalate to outside counselling as the prior interventions proved ineffective.

Angiep and I are on different sides of the "Is this excessive?" debate, but the result is the same: start with simple, nonjudgemental talks that respect the fact that she is beginning her adult life. Focus on the real issue (GPA). And only escalate your efforts if the GPA doesn't improve. That way, any changes aren't "my parents are freaking out," they are the natural outgrowth of your respectful talks and she knows she had an opportunity to take responsibility for the issue on her own.
posted by Tehhund at 10:31 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Probably doesn't help much but you might like to know that you're not the only one with this issue at home - doonesbury
posted by w.fugawe at 10:49 AM on February 3, 2011

Also, don't forget that if she is texting more than one person at the same time IE Multiple recipients etc, then the numbers are skewed.

Regardless, my action would be no phone until at least a point raise in GPA.

Sounds harsh, in the face of all of the more moderate suggestions here, but the problem isn't her texting... it's her GPA.

Ask how you raise your daughters GPA and see what answers are suggested :)
posted by DrtyBlvd at 11:38 AM on February 3, 2011

My 17 year old niece and a 25 year old friend whose texting statistics I happen to have heard line up with this figure. The niece is graduating early from high school and the friend is a chronic overachiever. The rate is astonishing to me too, but it seems to be how the kids are these days. (I'm 26). Counseling for the texting is outlandishly unnecessary but maybe not so much for the grades. That's up to you and your daughter.
posted by cmoj at 11:48 AM on February 3, 2011

If you had posted this two months ago I would have been incredulous at those numbers. Before I got a smartphone and a data plan, text messaging felt like writing by Morse code. Every message required pre-optimizing my sentences for the dreaded slow-ass keypad conversion. Every message was potentially a tiny extra charge on the bill. But once you start treating texting like chat instead of email, those numbers climb fast. Like smackfu said, with chat every time you hit the enter key you send a new message.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:06 PM on February 3, 2011

I have 2 teenage neices that are on my small company's phone plan. They are both A students and varsity athletes. One has is going to be accepting a full-ride to the University of Florida on an acadmeic scholarship. They are as good as any two teen girls could be.

I go over the phone bill carefully every month, because I have several employees and others on the plan. Thank God for free texting - one niece averages 12,000 texts per month, the other averages 7,000 texts per month. There was one month when one had over 15,000 texts in a month. That is 500 texts per day! I honestly do not know how someone could text as much as they do - it amazes me every month when I see their number of texts.

I dont understand how young kids could text that much - but I do know that texting a lot does not equal being a bad student or a troubled kid. My nieces are proof of that.
posted by Flood at 12:22 PM on February 3, 2011

Statistically normal or not, this is a lot of time to spend attached to your phone screen. So is it a problem? Yes. Are her grades a problem? Yes.

*Don't pretend to ignore this problem. Even though she has moved out she needs to know you still care about her and that you notice these things, and that they matter to you.
*Tell her you are concerned and that you want to see her do well in school.
*Ask her what she thinks about the situation, both in terms of how she feels about her schoolwork and how she feels about texting that much.
*Offer to help if she wants help in some way to do better in school.

And that's it. Don't threaten or judge - she is an adult now and she will resent it, plus it won't really help her deal with this problem by taking responsibility for herself.
posted by mai at 12:23 PM on February 3, 2011

My 17yo daughter has run at 5-6000 per month for the past few years. If your daughter is more of a social butterfly popular kid 10K doesn't seem outrageous.
posted by chazlarson at 12:27 PM on February 3, 2011

That's not unusual if you have SMS notifications turned on for your social networks (Facebook,Twitter, etc).

Also, kids today use texting to replace instant messaging. That would account for it on its own.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:51 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm going to sound like an old fart (which I'm not), but that's a lot of text messages. I text my friends, but I also put my phone away and live life in the real world. I am a grad student that teaches at a very large public university, and it drives me crazy when students are stumbling down the sidewalk, not paying attention, and nearly getting run over because their text messages are so damn important. Not to mention the fact that life is zipping by and these people are completely absorbed in their , "OMG, lol" little worlds.

Your daughter doesn't need counseling to deal with her distractions, she needs to realize that she needs to take her education seriously, put the phone down, and join the real world. She needs to realize that if she paid as much attention to her schoolwork as she did her phone, she would have good grades. I would make her pay for her own phone.
posted by bolognius maximus at 12:55 PM on February 3, 2011

I'd talk with her about it to see what's going on. Notifications, as others have said, may be a lot of the traffic.

Paying your own bill is definitely a slap in the face for many young adults.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:08 PM on February 3, 2011

I have a teenage daughter and two teenage sons. My daughter was averaging about 5500 texts per month until I got her a blackberry. Now all she does is BBM and the texts are down to about 1500. Both sons text less, but around 2k per month. I do not think your daughter is out of the range of normal, but I would suggest that you have the discussion I had with my daughter that this thing in her hand has attached to the keyboard a phone. If you use the phone, you can actually talk to someone and make plans or agree on something much quicker than texting and a lot less costly. Even with my family unlimited deal.

As for her grades, I too was learning more life lessons than classroom lessons my first two years at college. Then I realized that lifting 12 oz weights was not going to help me after this gig was up so I buckled down and got a 3.9 the rest of the way. (I still think I should not have gotten that A- from the english teacher who did not appreciate my poem as much as the rest of the class did, but that is for another day.)
posted by AugustWest at 1:20 PM on February 3, 2011

Just checked my daughter's usage. She's a junior in college and she used 1350 messages in 27 days of a 31 day cycle. That would include the time period of winter break and not working because of an injury. So I would think that might be pretty close to her maximum. So 10K does seem excessive and probably distracting. What about setting a goal with her, say 5k max in a month to in courage better study habits?
posted by tamitang at 1:31 PM on February 3, 2011

I wouldn't go right to counseling as a solution for low grades in college. Instead, I'd call her (email her to set up a time if you need to, so you can get her undivided attention) and talk to her about her grades and why she thinks they are so low. Work with her to eliminate distractions.

It absolutely could be her texting is a problem, and it certainly doesn't help, but that doesn't mean it is THE problem. Maybe she is carrying too heavy a course load, or theres a guy in the picture, or her organizational and study skills are lacking. College is a huge adjustment, and so is being away from home for the first time. She's been dealing with a lot in the last 5 months.

I, personally, don't think she should be texting during class hours. And there is no reason she can't pay for her own phone.

But these are all secondary concerns--the grades are what you need to focus on.
posted by misha at 1:42 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yet another person thinking that the quantity of texts is not that bad. Also, don't forget that cell phones with unlimited texts are not that expensive - even if you cut her off, she could probably get one herself anyway.

If the grades are a problem talk about those. But don't bring the texts into it, they are a red herring.

If you use the phone, you can actually talk to someone and make plans or agree on something much quicker than texting and a lot less costly.

If someone said that to me I would roll my eyes a lot and ignore them. And I'm 31. I suspect teenagers do more eye-rolling.
posted by plonkee at 1:47 PM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Can't speak to the texting issue, but if she is having trouble in school, I guarantee you the school has resources for her. Academic deans, counseling center if you think she's depressed or should be evaluated for ADD, study skills classes, disability services office, tutoring in her hard subjects etc. A huge number of freshmen have trouble adjusting to the freedom of college and keeping up with school work, so she is not out of the ordinary in that way - but there are a lot of tools at school to help her get it under control.

Talk to her and find out if she feels like she's able to get to class, pay attention in class, keep track of assignments, get things done on time, etc. Why does she think she got poor grades - was the material too tough (in which case she should talk to academic advisor about what classes to take, and the tutoring center about getting extra help), or was she having an internal issue (distraction, depression, etc) that kept her from performing up to her potential?

If her grades continue to be very poor, it might make sense for her to think about taking time off school and working. She can go back once she finds her own motivation for getting a degree.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:29 PM on February 3, 2011

I'm a grownup and if Google Chat messages send via my phone were counted as texts (mercifully, they aren't), I would easily send 10,000+ per month. That's just how many of my friends communicate. Lots of people hate phone conversations and email, but will happily blast off 100 texts in a few minutes.

If the grades are the problem, focus on them.
posted by The Lamplighter at 3:03 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

As somebody who sends and receives maybe 5 texts a month this is just boggling. GRAR GEN Y WHY CAN'T YOU JUST TALK LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE AND WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS HUGGING PEOPLE YOU LAST SAW AN HOUR AGO ok I'm over it ignore me I'm just old and bitter.

The timing of the texts should be a greater concern than the frequency. Were the texts mostly sent during the evening and on weekends? Or were they sent during lectures? Do they peak when papers and exams are due, indicating possible procrastination?

I'll now return to obsessively surfing the internet all day, every day.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:04 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

If she has ADHD or another issue that is interfering with her learning, she needs help, and the sooner the better. It doesn't matter if she's out of the house.

If she does have ADHD, she might need help with everyday tasks for much longer than other people. That's okay. It doesn't mean you're meddling or spoiling her. It's a genuine disability.

Many people with ADHD self-destruct once they go to college. Structure--gone. Schedule different every day. No one buys groceries or toothpaste. No one makes sure you hear your alarm. It's rough.

Delivered from Distraction has a great section on college and ADHD.

If it's not that, it's maybe a new boyfriend/girlfriend or three. Not normal, though.

Good luck!
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:09 PM on February 3, 2011

It is pretty common for kids at the high school where I teach to have 50k-75k SMS a month. Here’s how it happens: the average kid is texting pretty much all day and dozens of those are mass-messages to hundreds of phones. Once a kid had his phone out during an after-school meeting and it kept vibrating and looked like it was ringing for minute after minute and it was just receiving dozens of “mass” as they call it. Usually pictures of stupid shit or quotes, honestly.

Heck, my 20-year-old sister (with whom I have a family plan) sends 30k on her own and she’s a 4.0 student at an ivy-league school with two jobs.
posted by Es ist Zeit, dass es Zeit wird! at 4:38 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

i'm not sure i think "typical" and "normal" are the same thing. that's a lot of texts - and i agree that much socializing has to be cutting into study time and certainly concentration.

everyone seems to still be texting while they drive - so are we going to chalk that up to "normal"? i miss personal responsibility.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 5:01 PM on February 3, 2011

Anon OP: I'm seriously considering getting her into counseling

The Pink Superhero: For a child that is no longer living at home, I think this is outside the bounds of what is appropriate ... This is a chance for you to practice letting her live her own life. Give her another semester to see if things improve

I strongly disagree with TPS. No, I don't think you should bring down the hammer in a super authoritarian way and demand/force her into counseling -- I think that would be alienating/humiliating and might make her resist it. (Not that I'm assuming this was your intention.)

Mainly I don't think you'll need to be authoritarian about it because there's a good chance she'll be happy to be offered it! I can't imagine that she doesn't feel like a loser at times when she sees her grades, when she can't focus or concentrate. I think it is probably something she is struggling with and something that is making her suffer.

I don't think this something like this is a situation where one should just go ahead and let her sink or swim. Attention problems are one of those things where lots and lots and lots of people end up sinking. Many people get worse and more desperate with time, not better. The girl needs help. Definitely offer it to her in a kind way.

Just don't make the texts the centerpiece of your reasoning when you talk to her about it. In fact I think the texts are completely irrelevant. You can just ask her what her feelings are. Tell her you're prepared to find help for her to get a handle on attention and focus, if she feels it would be useful to her.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:21 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wow, 10,000 sounds huge to this nearly 30 something guy. But I'm going to defer to the wisdom of the tribe and say that's probably not out of line.

College is a big step and offers a lot of freedom that some people just aren't prepared to handle. Looking back at my college days I can think of a good half dozen people I know who either struggled or dropped out because they couldn't manage their time. All smart people, but suddenly video games, social activities, and drinking got the best of them. You said your daughter had trouble focusing before... I'm sure that probably is x10 worse now.

It's harsh, but IMHO you really do have to let her sink or swim on her own. If you come down heavy and start managing her college life for her then when is she going to learn to order her own affairs? That's a huge part of the college experience too.

I offer this suggestion: tell her you're worried about her academic performance and point out that college is a privilege you have to earn, not a right you're guaranteed. Ask her if you can help. Ask her if social distractions are a problem and offer some counseling to help her through it. But make sure she realizes and understands it's her choice how to solve this problem.
posted by sbutler at 8:11 PM on February 3, 2011

The kid just doesn't understand that each one-word burst is a separate text message with a separate cost.

Huh? She's certainly on an unlimited-text plan. Presumably she knows this. So no, each message doesn't have a separate cost. Given that, the behavior isn't that difficult to understand.

Just based on personal experience, user behavior when you are on a plan where each text message costs money is very different from behavior on an unlimited-text plan. When you have an unlimited plan, you can send text messages just like computer IMs, a few words at a time (like in anaelith's example) — and a lot of newer smartphones actively encourage this due to how their interfaces are set up.

Ten thousand texts does seem like a lot to me, but a lot of young people seem to use SMS exclusively and don't use traditional IM services. If I were to count each IM message as a 'text', I'd certainly be in that ballpark — and I certainly would have been back in college, when AIM/ICQ were very popular.

So, tl;dr, it's not the number of text messages per se that seems like the problem ... but if you know she's prone to distraction (and from previous experience know that text messaging is how her distracted nature expresses itself), then it might be time for a talk. But I doubt that it's really the cellphone that's the source, it seems more like a symptom.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:32 PM on February 3, 2011

Weird advice here.

Solving potential problem 1: you have unlimited texting, right?

Normal is not necessarily optimal. Abnormal is not necessarily suboptimal.

People don't just become adults 567648001 seconds after birth. Everyone can benefit from guidance all throughout their lives, and some people need different things. We can't encourage our kids to prepare for college and also expect them to be self-sufficient adults at the same time. They are different skillsets.

Frankly, my opinion is that encouraging your daughter to seek a counselor is the best idea. Not because (as others implied) we think she has psychiatric problems, but because an outsider is more likely to have "fresh eyes" and might be able to see whether a problem exists. AND because as we grow into adults, we should learn to seek the advice and counsel of professionals when we see a problem we don't have the experience to solve.

So, my advice is to present it like this: "daughter, I see that you are having trouble performing well in college. I know you have the intelligence and skills to perform well, so I am concerned that there is something getting in the way of you getting the most out of college. This also correlates with a LOT of text messaging activity. I am worried that you might accidentally be developing bad habits, or are having trouble prioritizing all the things you have to do. I think it might be a good idea for you to make an appointment with a counselor who works with college students and who should be able to work with you to discover better ways of managing your workload. Please understand that I'm not mad or disappointed or even worried- I know you will succeed one way or the other. I'm not going to tell you to "try harder" or "just buckle down" because we both know that's something you have always been doing. So that's why getting the advice of someone who helps people for a living might be the best option. These people are experienced and trained to talk to people about their lives and workloads and stresses, and can help us see things and learn things about ourselves that we might not be able to see when we are stuck in the middle of it.

So here's the thing- Grades are just letters on a page, I don't care about one letter versus another letter. What I do care about is your happiness and fulfillment, and a big part of that is finishing what you start, putting in a reasonable effort and getting the best possible results from that effort. I know you are working hard, and so when I see that you aren't getting the kind of grades you want to get, I am worried that this might start to make you unhappy. All I expect from you is to confront problems head on. HOW you do that is up to you. If you already know what is getting in the way of better performance, that's awesome and I offer you ANY help I can give you. And if you are struggling and can't figure out why and are stuck in some kind of endless loop of trying harder and getting less for it, I think you need to step back for a minute and reassess. And if you can't figure it out, the right thing to do is ask for help.

And if asking a stranger for help seems embarrassing or overwhelming, I can help you with that. I can make an appointment for you, and we can go together if you want. I'll even go in the therapist's office with you if you want, and you can kick me out whenever you want. None of us is born with any skills- we learn by trying new things, and sometimes it is easier to try new things when we are with people we know.

What do you think?"

That assumes that you do know she is working hard. If you think she is just blowing shit off, then you have to use a different approach. The idea, to me, is to simply encourage her. Whether that's courage to try harder, or to feel comfortable with turning the phone off for an hour to study, or to go talk to someone. Because any other option leads to hurt feelings- sometimes that's the only solution, but challenging her comfort level ("college is a privilege not a right" or "go by your own phone") is almost for sure going to fail. Pissing someone off to motivate them sometimes works, but is only very rarely the best solution.
posted by gjc at 7:25 AM on February 4, 2011

You could always shift the responsibility of the phone bill onto her. She is an adult, after all.

I agree with this. If you talk to her about it, she will - quite rightly - tell you she is an adult and you can't have jurisdicture over her social methods. Explain why you want to, and then tell her that she needs to pick up her own bills. (I don';t think this is a slap in the face, btw - I never used my mobile at university but I did have to cover my own expenses for 99% of the time. I was a grown-up - why would my mother pay for my glasses anyway?)
posted by mippy at 8:54 AM on February 4, 2011

I'm seriously considering getting her into counseling to help her deal with distractions, based on her grades and her texting.

As someone whose parents threatened counseling everytime I did something they didn't like, I am begging you to reconsider even bringing it up in this context.

Counseling needs to not be linked to punishment and you really need to steer clear of anything that comes across as you thinking she's psychologically defective. It is incredibly hurtful.

Also, putting "because we really care about you" does not make it any better and just comes across as manipulative. Really. Don't do it.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:43 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you want to discuss a "college coach" or something similar, that will come across very differently.

Also, if you have your facebook or something hooked up to your texting, you can get swamped with texts. Hardly anyone I know (and I'm an old person) looks at their phone every time a text comes in.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:45 AM on February 4, 2011

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