According to a 2010 Pew Research study, cell phone texting has become the favored communication method for the majority of American teens. How much texting is too much? Researchers at Case Western University found that high school students who spend too much time texting or on social network sites are at higher risk for other issues including smoking, risky sex, depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse and absenteeism. The study identified "hyper-texters" as those teens who sent over 120 text messages each day.
In a university news release, lead researcher Dr Scott Frank, director of the School of Medicine's Master of Public Health Program, said, "The startling results of this study suggest that when left unchecked, texting and other widely popular methods of staying connected can have dangerous health effects on teenagers."
If you find your child spending excessive amounts of time using their cell phone behind closed doors, particularly in the early morning or late at night when other family members are asleep, they may be hiding inappropriate behaviors like sexting (sending sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images by text). If you suspect your child may be involved in sexting, you should consider monitoring and limiting their cell phone use through parental controls offered by your cell phone company.
While you may be wary of initiating conflict with your teen by monitoring their cell phone use, a study conducted in 2010 by the Pew Research Center found that limiting a child's text messaging does relate to lower levels of various texting behaviors among teens. These teens are less likely to report regretting a text they sent, or to report sexting.
Parents should know the signs of cyber-bullying, and intervene early if they think their teens are impacted by it. Today's bullies have become more aggressive in their torment, thanks to the anonymity of the Internet. The prevalence of cell phones enables cyber bullies to share images and messages with the entire school at the click of a button. The result? Victims are suffering severe mental anguish – and in some cases, taking their own lives as a consequence.
Watch for changes in your childrens' attitudes when they send or receive text messages. If they seem upset by incoming text messages and become withdrawn from family and friends, they may be a victim of cyber abuse. If they act secretive about what they're sending, or laugh excessively while texting, they may be cyber-bullying others.
Is your child is a victim of cyber-bullying? Learn how to stop cyber-abuse >>
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