AKRON, Ohio — Grandparents may turn up their noses at text messaging as a way to communicate with their tech-savvy grandchildren. They want to hear the kids' voices, and they can use the phone to talk — not type. But is that realistic in today's world? And are they at risk of missing out on a relationship with the youngsters they love?
"It's natural for grandparents to want as much personal interaction with their grandchildren as possible. Many grandparents feel like texting is so impersonal and detached (and) really do get a great deal of happiness from hearing their grandchildren's voices," said Amy Goyer, AARP's home and family expert. "There is nothing wrong with trying to balance phone calls and in-person time with texting or emailing, but as grandchildren grow up, grandparents may have to adjust to their changes and preferences."
Kids often have hectic lives. And sometimes texting is the best way to keep in touch — whether Granny and Gramps like it or not.
"I'd say they run the risk of losing touch with their grandchildren's everyday lives if they don't text," Goyer added. "That doesn't mean their whole relationship will fall apart, but they can stay in closer touch if they are willing to text."
Many grandparents who live miles away from their loved ones have taken to Skype to hear and see their grandkids.
Nancy Lemmon and her 17-year-old grandson, Tyler Moore, aren't separated by miles. In fact, they live just a few doors from each other in Stow, Ohio. Still, they text regularly to communicate.
Moore is a busy guy. Though technically a student at Stow-Munroe Falls High School, he is taking 18 hours of postsecondary classes at Kent State University and participating in an internship in the psychology department. With those things and other activities, he's not the easiest guy to get in touch with for a voice conversation.
"They do not want to chat on the phone with their grandmother, or anyone else for that matter. They want to communicate short and sweet," Lemmon explained. "Tyler may respond to me when I ask how he did at Kent this semester. He may let me know he has arrived safely at a destination out of town. He can tell me that he scored the highest grade in his psychology class or he got a 4.0 this semester at school, but the words that warm my heart the most is when he simply texts, 'I Love You.'"
Sitting in his grandmother's home, Moore acknowledged the two would go longer periods of time without communicating if it weren't for texting.
"People don't talk on the phone that much anymore," he said.
If grandparents can adjust to thinking of texting as a way to bring them closer to their grandchildren, Goyer thinks they will be more willing to adopt it as a method of communication.
"The reality is that tweens, teens and young adults these days use texting as their most common form of communication and if grandparents ... really want to be in touch they'd better learn to text, even if it's just the basics," Goyer said.
And Lemmon offered: "Keep on texting, grandmas, and stay in touch. We have to learn the technology in order to savor these important relationships."