HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

Teens and Texting Issues

Are you concerned about your teenager and all the texting he or she does? For many adolescents, text messaging has become a primary way to communicate with peers. As one mother stated, "It seems that my son is texting people all day and all night long. It's an addiction if there ever was one." A lack of maturity can get your adolescent into big trouble when texting, though. Help him or her to understand and avoid the risks associated with texting by using the following tips:

Cyber-bullying— Cyber-bullying refers to sending harassing texts, emails or instant messages, as well as posting intimidating or threatening content on websites or blogs.  Of course, cyber-bullying can make young people feel unsafe and might lead to school absences or other issues. It has even be a contributing factor to suicide in some cases. Encourage your adolescent to talk to you or another trusted grown-up if he or she receives harassing text messages. You might also suggest rejecting texts from unknown numbers. On the other hand, make sure your adolescent understands that it isn't acceptable to spread rumors or bully someone through texting. Remind him or her that any text message that is sent can be forwarded to anyone else, so it's important to use good judgment with every text.

Enforcing consequences— If your adolescent isn't willing to follow the rules and you've established, or if you're concerned that texting is interfering with his or her schoolwork or other responsibilities — take action! Remove your adolescent's ability to text or send pictures through his or her phone, or simply take the phone away. Remind your adolescent that having a phone is a privilege, not a right. Preventing potentially serious consequences outweighs any anger he or she is likely to exhibit.

Monitoring messages— Sit down with your adolescent and look through his or her text messages occasionally, or let your adolescent know that you'll periodically check the phone for content. You might also review phone records to see when and how often your adolescent is sending and receiving texts.  As your adolescent gets older and engages with a larger group of people, it becomes even more important to monitor the messages.

Sexting— Sexting refers to sending a text message with sexually explicit content (e.g., naked pictures, pictures of people engaging in sexual acts, etc.). Even if sexting seems to be the norm among your adolescent's peer group, explain the emotional consequences of sexting to him or her. Sexting can be uncomfortable for the sender as well as the receiver. The possible long-term impact of sexting matters, too. A picture or message meant for one friend can be forwarded to an entire contact list at any time — and once it's in circulation, there's no way to control it. A photo or message could resurface years later under other circumstances, possibly causing great embarrassment – and even problems with work or school. Although laws may vary from state to state, make sure your adolescent understands that the possession of sexually explicit images of a minor is considered a crime. The consequences could be serious (e.g., a police record, suspension from school, legal action, etc.). You might say something like, “If you wouldn't be comfortable sharing the photo or message with the entire world, don't send it.”

Texting instead of sleeping— Texting after going to bed interferes with a good night's sleep, especially if the messages are stressful or emotional. This can lead to serious issues (e.g., lost sleep, difficulty falling asleep, poor sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, poor grades, etc.). Work with your son or daughter to establish reasonable hours for texting (e.g., no texting after 10:30 p.m. on school nights). To enforce the rule, you might keep your adolescent's cell phone out of his or her room at night.

Texting while driving— Research suggests that “texting while driving” is more than 20 times as dangerous as driving alone. Even more disturbing, texting is an even greater threat for young drivers than for older drivers, because teenagers are less likely to stop texting when faced with a difficult driving situation. Talk to your son or daughter about the consequences of texting while driving (e.g., getting a traffic ticket, serious or deadly accidents, losing driver’s license, etc.). Talking isn't enough, though. Set clear rules and consequences about texting and driving. Explain that texting while driving isn't allowed under any circumstances, and that driving and cell phone privileges will be revoked if your adolescent texts while driving. Remind your son or daughter that texting while driving is illegal in many states. To help your adolescent resist temptation while driving, you can suggest storing the cell phone out of easy reach in the car (e.g., in the glove compartment, tucked away in a purse or bag, etc.). Also, consider apps or other safety features that disable texting while driving.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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