Being a teenager now, unlike when I was young, has some differences regarding communication regarding mobile phones / internet.

I have noticed some strange behavior in teenagers (around 15), which I find a bit baffling.

It's a mix of small things, so will list in dot point.

  • Plans for meeting/catching up are often very vague/unknown, right up until the event.
  • Counterintuitively, contacting others seems to be quite hit-and-miss. When an event is disorganized - suggesting "Why don't you call them to find out whats going on", often gets some reply like...
    "he doesn't check his phone" or "she's lost her phone".
  • A related issue, after-school classes, younger staff there may - for example, post on facebook when the stating times for the class change (with very little notice).
    Not considerate of people who have to travel a long way, or plan lifts ahead of time!.
  • Teenagers often don't know each other's home-phone numbers (of course it's increasingly common not to have a land-line),
    nevertheless - if they do, there may be anxiety associated to calling them...
    (had calls where they person who called did not feel comfortable to talk so just hung up). Later I was told a friend called but was 'too shy' to speak.

In short, my impression is that many teenagers accept fluid (read haphazard) plans where they don't like to commit to activities and instead choose to "play it by ear", since this is now an option; further, there are so many forms of communication (phone, text, email, multiple social-media sites), that ignoring them is accepted too.

I'm told by my teenager that this is "normal".

So my questions:

  • Is this change in behavior normal/common, have others noticed this?
  • Is this something that parents should try to prevent/mitigate?


  • Phone calls are just one way to communicate, and I get that there are all sorts of apps... however the result seems to be that young people (in my anecdotal experience) have problems contacting each other reliably/effectively.
  • The teenagers otherwise seem fairly well adjusted and outgoing (involved in theater, sports, music).
  • This seems to be the case for both boys and girls.
  • Not sure how this question comes across, but this isn't about being a control freak, knowing if someone is/isn't visiting (e.g., should we get extra food, or tidy the the house :), isn't so unreasonable).
  • 2
    Can you clarify what the urban had to do with it -- have you noticed suburban or rural teens behaving differently?
    – Acire
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 15:41
  • 7
    As a suburban teenager, this is fairly normal among everybody I know...
    – user22096
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 16:57
  • 2
    Sounds pretty similar to my teenage years, just a bit more high tech. Commented May 8, 2016 at 6:20
  • 1
    What's your stake in this? Are you a parent of a teenager ?
    – Hilmar
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 12:13
  • 1
    There is some research to suggest modern tech does in fact have a deleterious effect on communication and social skills. Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 19:32

1 Answer 1


I think you are interpreting things slightly differently to the way I would.

When I was young, there was no mobile communication device, so you planned your meetings carefully, sometimes with backup plans, otherwise you just wouldn't meet your friends.

Nowadays there are so many ways to connect that it really doesn't matter if plans change, diversions happen etc. Even I now don't plan accurately, knowing I'll be able to turn up somewhere and communicate - possibly instantly, possibly delayed, but effective enough either way. The thing is that what you see as being unreliable or ineffective just isn't the case. It's just more relaxed because technology has removed the need to be so prescriptive.

But all through my life, most of the families I knew (mine included) would get unexpected visitors, sometimes whole packs of kids would turn up unannounced, and they'd get fed and watered, and space would be found for them to sleep. This is not a new thing at all.

It definitely isn't something you should try and prevent, although I understand your concern that they may not be able to manage meetings or appointments that are strict, as they might have with a job interview or similar. Anecdotally, when advising my teenagers this, they are perfectly capable of hitting strict times when they want, so it's not even slightly a worry of mine.

Teenagers today communicate astonishingly well - they just use methods that aren't native to their parents' generation. It's normal. Don't panic.

  • 4
    As a teenager who speaks most frequently with urban and suburban teenagers in middle- to upper-class, typically 15-19, I can second this. Similarly, my experience with the same age groups in rural areas in the lower-middle- to middle-class reflects this as well. +1 for accuracy. Commented May 7, 2016 at 17:05
  • 1
    To be fair, even when I was young it wasn't uncommon for kids to just meet up in their usual spots and go from there to wherever. "Okay, just be back by dark/curfew!"
    – Geobits
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 17:15
  • Geobits ~ same, I didn't mean to express informal meetup shouldn't happen at all :S. @Rory Alsop, your reply says they "communicate astonishingly well", of course this is all anecdotal, but if theyr'e unable to contact each other to get definitive information about events. This is not communicating well. Perhaps they communicate more often, but with lower reliability. And to say its not a problem - well sometimes it simply is (parents having to drive an hour to pickup and drop off their children for example... makes changes in places very inconvenient).
    – ideasman42
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 6:35
  • 1
    Ideasman - various reported studies (I don't have the info with me) has shown that they do communicate well. Their requirements for this are different to their parents. For most things they need their communication fits perfectly. And while it may be a problem for you as the parent, like all teenagers over the years, that is not a problem for them!
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 6:43
  • Yes Rory!! When we got bored of hanging around the streets, we would just crash into my house and play pool (even though the room was small, so some shots were impossible!). My mother would just stay out of the way, for fear of embarrassing me, lol. She's the kindest mother ever. But everything you said was spot-on. My 13yog comes home on time, loves being out and about, and frequently makes plans and meets up with friends, all on her phone and all by herself. TBH, I think it's the teen-adult interactions that are more problematic.
    – theDADDY
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 21:21

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