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Eddie Thomas, Star Tribune

ABOUT THE SERIES

The last in a six-part series.

To read the stories about parents as partners in college, connecting to a community college, safer sex on campus and technological distractions, go to startribune.com/backtocollege.

Breaking Away: The communication conundrum

  • Article by: KEVYN BURGER
  • S pecial to the Star Tribune
  • August 31, 2012 - 3:26 PM

Jazmine Darden, a math and physics major at Augsburg College, touches base with her mother almost every day. But the phone calls that were routine when she was a freshman have been replaced by texts as she enters her senior year.

"Before and after every test, I text," she said.

That may sound like a lot of texting, but it's a strategy that works for Darden.

"With parents, the more you let them know, the less they pry," she said. "They feel like if anything was going on, you would let them know."

A generation ago, college students typically made a single phone call home every week. These days, instant access is cheap, easy and, in some cases, expected.

"Texting is how families communicate now," said Marjorie Savage, Parent Program director at the University of Minnesota. Savage says that as many as 85 percent of parents text their children at the university. "It's a quick way to check in and can reduce stress on both sides," she said. "It's less of a commitment than a phone call."

Adrienne Young, an incoming senior at Augsburg College, agrees. "I run track and cross country and I text my parents after meets with my times," she said. "Texting gets it done."

Whether it's via text or old-fashioned phone calls, parents and students alike appreciate the ability to stay in close contact. But student advocates caution that constant communication can be too much of a good thing.

"If a student calls home to say, 'Listen to what happened, it's so cool' and the call lasts two minutes, that's one thing," Savage said. "If they are calling multiple times, it may mean they are asking the parents to figure out something they need to work on themselves."

Denise Ward, associate dean for student services at Macalester College, urges parents to give their college-aged children the room to grow.

"Sometimes you shouldn't be so available," she said. "Let it go to voicemail if you've already talked to them. Giving them space to figure it out is not abandoning them."

But students aren't the only ones who may be using their smartphones as a crutch.

"My mom only calls at the end of the day," said Kandice Bostick, an incoming Augsburg senior. "And she knows that if I don't pick up it means I'm busy. You kind of have to train them."

She's right.

Experts advise parents and their kids to set a pattern of communication in the first couple of weeks of school, if possible.

Connie Groves, the vice president for student life and development at Winona State University, advises parents to let their students call them. "Some parents want daily contact, but that's too much to expect. Students are trying to figure out where the buildings are and learning how to navigate a new environment."

Kevyn Burger of Minneapolis is a broadcaster, podcaster and freelance writer.

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