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Lessons all teens should know about texting

Whitney Coy is a freelance writer and editor based in Columbus, OH, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She writes frequently for SheKnows, as well as several other websites. She writes on topics including parenting, trav...

Texting safety for teens

Texting is an essential way for teens to communicate. Unfortunately, they're not always mature enough to handle the risks that come with it. Here are some lessons they should learn before you hand over a cell phone.

teenager texting

Texting and driving

Texting is never safe while you're behind the wheel. Have a long talk with your teen about texting while driving, and set strict rules against it. Make sure there are also significant consequences for texting and driving.

If you find that your teen simply isn't listening and still drives and texts at the same time, consider taking away the phone, the car or both. If that's not an option, install a program such as Sprint Guardian that won't permit calls or texts while the vehicle is in motion.

Sexting

It's easy to think that a few texts are nothing but harmless conversation between you and another person, but that is not always the case. Your teen needs to understand that once she sends that text, whatever info was with it is now out of her control. The person who received the message can transfer the information, photo or video to another device, store it remotely or keep it on his phone. It's then his to keep for as long as he likes, and share with whomever he likes, however he sees fit.

It doesn't take much effort to forward a photo to several contacts, and once that happens it can circulate quickly. It may even resurface years down the road.

Make sure she understands the possible consequences before sending that sexy message or photo. It will probably be a very uncomfortable conversation, but it's one you'll be glad you had.

Bullying

Bullying via text messages is still bullying. In fact, it's cyberbullying, and many schools and municipalities have rules and laws against it. Make sure your teen knows to talk with an adult if he receives bullying or threatening texts, and make sure he knows how wrong it is to send them.

Texting and sleep

For some reason, most teens think it's perfectly fine to stay awake all night texting, since they're not actually speaking to anyone. Unfortunately, they'll still greet the morning sleep-deprived. Let your teen know that it's not all right, and set a limit on what time they have to stop the texts. If it's still a problem, confiscate the phone after a certain hour, or use a parental control program to disable it for a block of time at night.

Quick Tip

Make a habit of reading your teen's text messages. Let him know you're doing it, and do it often.

More reading

Kids and cell phones: What you need to know
How to encourage responsible cell phone use
Warning signs of cell phone misuse

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