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Book Review: When Parents Text: So Much Said, So Little Understood

The publication of When Parents Text: So Much Said, So Little Understood carries on the recent trend of the web-site-turned-book. The process starts with an eponymous internet site that collects a bunch of material around a central theme (in this case the often humorous parent/child text message interaction). Give the site enough time to gather enough momentum, material, and a following that would justify a book deal, and blam! You've got yourself a potential hit book on your hands. The great thing about this process is that by the time the project has reached the book-ready stage it has been vetted by a large online audience.

The premise of When Parents Text is simple; users submit text conversations between a parent and child. These conversations are often full of non-sequiturs or typos or other such errors. Often times there is the general awkwardness that occurs between a parent and adolescent/young adult child. Having lived through these types of exchanges, though not via text message, I can feel the authenticity contained in this book.

There is a lot to like about the book. The format allows for you to pick it up and put it down at any point seamlessly. The book makes a great coffee table book. Or for the college student, it would make a nice desk companion, in the event that a college student needs a non-network connected means of procrastination. The color scheme is a pleasant pale blue and the design is clean and fun, nicely tied back to the design of the website. A nice feature exclusive to the book is the series of strategically placed illustrations to enhance the analog reading experience.

Some of my favorite message exchanges in the book include the use of emoticons and other graphical representations achieved through deft arrangement of text characters. For those of the internet generation who are used to a somewhat standard set of emoticons, it is humorous to see the non-standard set of these that parents have come up with and the non-standard way that these are referenced.

Another interesting thing to examine in the book is the range of themes contained in these conversations. There is even a whole section dedicated to conversations about Harry Potter. This is an interesting piece of evidence confirming the cross-generational popularity of the book series. It is also a great example of how parents try to seek common points of reference with their children, no doubt a noble pursuit. But in many of the exchanges in this book the parents are not so successful in using this literary back-drop as common vocabulary.

Aside from the entertainment value, there is surely some instructive value to be found in this book. if you are a parent who is looking to start texting with your child, reading this will give you a good idea of the type of content that is considered out of the ordinary. Most of these exchanges are probably best left as unique one-time conversations. You know the saying, those who do not know the past are bound to repeat it.

Thinking about this book makes me think of all the funny miscues in conversations between parents and children that have happened since the dawn of time, which in the past required much more effort to documented, and as such many are lost forever. Luckily with the advent of text messaging, everyday conversations are automatically and easily preserved.

On that thought, let me share a funny, non-text exchange that I witnessed as a teen, and thereby save it for posterity. There was a group of us (about 3 guys and 3 girls) sitting on the back porch of a friends house in the summer just after the sun had gone down. The girl’s mother came outside, I think because she must have misheard something in our conversation. She asked her daughter "are you guys playing volleyball." Her daughter replied, "no, but we can play if you want us to."

by Cameron Hatch
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