Here’s some great news for parents of college students: Through the wonders of today’s technologies, there has never been a better time in history to keep in touch with your young adult.
Just a few short years ago, as the pace of technological change exploded, many parents chose a cautious approach to embracing the newest and latest in digital gadgets. But, times have changed. A recent study from the Barna Group indicated that today, parents are just as dependent upon technology as their children. Parents spend almost as much time as their kids using technology devices. More importantly, most parents believe that technology has been a positive influence on their families. And so, most parents should find it easy to utilize today’s technologies as helpful tools in staying connected with their kids who are away at college.
It’s exciting to know that a parent’s technology toolkit for staying connected to college students is already large and always expanding. Here are some tools parents can use today:
Texting. When my daughters were in college, for a time, I used to attempt to call them on my cell phone. Many of my calls went unanswered and I often waited…and waited…and waited for a return call. Frustrating! Then, I decided to try contacting them through texting. Bingo! The girls found it much easier to send a simple and timely text message reply. I learned my lesson and began to focus on texting.
Texting is an easy way to send short messages to let your sons and daughters know you love them and are thinking about them. On today’s smart phones, you can send pictures via text message to keep your college student up to date with what’s going on back home.
I find that texting is best suited for lighter and encouraging messages rather than for handling more serious issues. (“Fluffy died 2day” or “PLEASE EXPLAIN ASAP HOW YOU COULD CHARGE $1,000 IN LAST 2 DAYS” are not texts you should send!)
Phone. Most collegians have their cell phones near them 24/7. But remember, phone conversations require much more engagement for your son or daughter than texting. Don’t be surprised when your young adult doesn’t answer your call or get back to you promptly! Still, person-to-person conversations are valuable and absolutely will help you to stay connected. Best uses: a scheduled phone appointment (planning ahead is more convenient for your young adult and likely for you too—which can be arranged via text), and occasional voicemails – when you don’t need to talk immediately, but just want to say hello. (Think of it as an audio version of a text message!)
Phone Videoconferencing. Today, it’s not difficult to find phones and apps that allow you to connect face-to-face with your college student using phone technologies. These are great ways to actually see and visit with your college student in their own habitat!
Smartphone Games. Stay connected to your college student by playing a game like Scrabble over the phone and across the miles.
Computer/Laptop. Email is the oldest of today’s connection technologies, but almost everyone, even college students, still use it. Best use: for longer updates on what’s going on around home. Also, Skype provides free video conferencing. Idea: Some night try inviting your son or daughter to join you for a family dinner by setting up your laptop on the dinner table and letting them see and be seen. It just might be the next best thing to being there.
Social Networking. Social networking sites are extremely popular today, and it’s likely your college student is on Facebook. Friend them (if you haven’t already.) For many families, Facebook isn’t going to be the best way to stay connected. But, it’s very beneficial as a way for parents to stay current on what’s going on in their kids’ lives.
Manage Connections in a Healthy Way.
For the parent who is dealing with separation anxiety, it’s tempting to over-connect with their child. Resist the urge to inundate your college student with too frequent texts, emails and calls. Technologies allow for this, so you’ll need to learn to manage your use of them in a healthy way. Don’t short-circuit one of the main goals of your young adult’s college experience—to help prepare them for life as an independent adult—by going overboard. Your daughter or son will benefit from staying connected with you, but they also need their space in order to bloom into the woman or man they are becoming.