Parents Nag Via Text-Messaging

Jacky Longwell of McLean, with daughter Hanna, 17, says texting allows her to dispense the usual parental reminders
Jacky Longwell of McLean, with daughter Hanna, 17, says texting allows her to dispense the usual parental reminders "without that noodgy voice." (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
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By Donna St. George
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 6, 2009

As school starts again, there's so much more for a parent to nag about. Homework. Bedtime. Lost hours on Facebook and Xbox. The chores that need to be squeezed in.

But in the age of the digital childhood, Jacky Longwell, 45, mother of three in McLean, often text-messages what she once uttered as her children rushed out the door: Be nice to your brother. Walk the dog. Remember your reading.

"Without that noodgy voice," she points out.

So goes family life at a time when even that most basic of parental prerogatives -- to prod our children, to patiently remind them or flat-out harass them -- has shifted along with technology's advance.

There are changes in how parents nag. In what they nag about. In frequency. Parents know more about flubbed tests and skipped homework because of online grading systems. They know more about social lives because of Facebook and MySpace pages.

"The fact that you have more nagging options is what's good about it -- the plethora of nagging options," says Martha McGrath.

Her friend Suzanne Young, 52, a mother of two in Bethesda, mentions that she once discovered via Montgomery County's online grading system that her middle school-age son "hadn't done diddly squat in his history class."

Once she found out, she assures: "I did nag him."

With his older brother, a high schooler, she and her husband are more text-inclined, thanks to an unlimited text plan and cellphones with full keyboards. Now she can easily tap: Where r u?

Some digitally inspired nagging is an evolution of necessity, parents say, because many teens do not answer phone calls from Mom or Dad, especially in the company of friends. Text allows nagging remotely -- and discreetly.

Take Marcia Malloy. The 58-year-old Leesburg mom of five frequently sends her high school-age daughter texts of just one word:


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