Conscientious parents keep informed regarding new activities their children become involved in, but more and more parental anxiety is being expressed concerning the increased and varied use of technology by tweens and teens. Parents are having a hard time keeping up with their tech-savvy kids.
Rapid Changes in Technology
A few short years ago, the cell phone seemed like a helpful parental aid in reporting safe arrivals, rearranging plans, and handling emergencies. Then along came new cell phones with text messaging capabilities and cameras. Like the cell phone, texting has many positive uses as well as negative possibilities. Now parents are scrambling to keep up with the latest uses and abuses.
For most kids in the tween-teen set, texting is a status symbol and a form of entertainment as well as a social connector, yet has the potential for addictive use. Texting has become a primary mode of communication, and with the additional popularity of Facebook, this generation is distancing itself from face-to-face social interaction. Parents wonder about their child's lack of social skills, but at the same time, many are jumping on board and using this tool to communicate with their own children.
According to recent research done by Dr. Phil's team, the average teen between ages 13 and 16 sends and receives 1,642 texts every month - approximately 55 a day. Some parents feel overwhelmed by their child's texting habits and are concerned how family interaction is being affected, but are unsure of how to set limits.
Parents of "chronic texters" may want to be aware of: texting inappropriately and rudely at the dinner table or while talking to an adult, texting instead of studying, texting during class or to cheat on tests, texting late into the night and losing sleep, texting as an exclusive means of communication with others, texting while driving a car, and texting instead of contributing to household responsibilities. Parents should be clear with their tween about what is acceptable cell phone use in the family.
A disturbing misuse of the cell phone which has received a great deal of media attention of late is "sexting". A teen takes a nude photo with a cell phone and texts it to someone, and then it is sent far and wide to others. Recent news accounts of legal charges (pornography) being brought against teens who have either sent or received such photos are giving parents a new awareness of what's out there in the world of teen texting.
Guidelines To Protect Children
To keep kids safe and age-appropriate in this technological age, parents need to be diligently aware and informed. With antennas up, they should be talking to other parents, listening to school administrators, and reading about the latest trends in tech use. And most importantly, parents need to talk to their children about guidelines that keep technology use in line with family values and in balance with other parts of family life.
After guidelines and consequences for misuse are determined by parents, they can be written in the form of a contract that both parents and tween sign. The most effective consequence is greatly limiting the use of cell phone or computer or taking them away completely for a time if misused.
Helpful Aids For Parents
To assist parents in keeping their kids technologically safe, Internet security software is available for the computer that can filter sexually graphic images, monitor a child's online activities, limit the amount of time a child spends online, and block personal information from being e-mailed. (Try Software4Parents, Net Nanny, Parental Control Bar). Verizon has a plan with checks in place for cell phones to be used by tweens and teens.
About the Author:
Jan Roberts is a parent educator who teaches weekly parenting classes, writes a weekly newspaper column, "The Parent Coach", and consults individually with parents.