With the amount of innovation happening today around communications technologies it's an exciting time to be a parent of a university student. Parents now have a wide variety of ways of reaching out to stay connected. The standby technology we've all come to depend on, of course, is cell phones; but many more options have emerged that don't require the immediacy and high level of engagement that a phone call sometimes requires. You shouldn't be surprised if your student doesn't pick up your phone calls or immediately respond to your voicemail. While the advantages of voice-to-voice communications are obvious, your student may prefer more frequent communications through another medium, like texting.
Texting can be a great way to reach out to your student by sending short, positive messages that keep the student engaged with news from home. It may be better to leave the serious conversations for a phone call and use texting for more frequent, simpler communications. A text message is not a great medium for sending admonishments to lay off the credit card, but it is a good way to let them know you're thinking about them.
In a similar way, social networks can provide another, albeit much more public, medium for conveying your news of the day to your student. If you are "friends" with your student, you have the opportunity to post interesting information and see the goings-on that your student chooses to permit you to see. There is a new and interesting dynamic that is emerging around "mom" being on Facebook, and it is a great opportunity for parents to see a slice of their son's or daughter's life on campus; but with the fine-tuned permission settings available on today's modern social networks, do not expect to see all of their postings.
For many, the technology of choice is still basic email. At the University of Michigan we're excited to be moving the email system to a new offering based on Google's Gmail product (see http://nextgen.umich.edu/collaboration). Come this spring, your student will be using the web-based email system that many have become familiar with by using Gmail, but their email address will remain the same @umich.edu address they have now. There are many advantages to the new system including the ability to use instant messaging directly from the browser.
Keep in touch, but please don't go overboard. It's an easy trap to fall into if you send your student a message and, if they don't respond, to send a message again. And sometimes a third time. Remember one of the primary reasons your young adult is at the University of Michigan is to prepare for independence as an adult; their college experiences should be their own. As parents, you certainly can understand the importance of staying in touch with your student, and you can also recognize the importance of managing those communications in a healthy way.
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