What is text messaging?
Text messaging allows short (around 100-character) messages to be sent and received discretely via cell phone. Messages are typically sent from one phone to another by addressing the message to the recipient’s phone number. For example, you could text your teen (see personal cell phone instructions) with a short note saying, "B home @ 10P," which translates to "Be home at 10 p.m."
Most phones and cell phone companies also allow messages to be sent from a phone directly to an e-mail address and vice versa, and cell phones with Web capabilities also allow users to e-mail and send links to cell phones. Text messaging is great if you are in a public place and can’t hear the other caller or if you just want to make plans with someone, but don’t need or want an in-depth conversation. However, for these same reasons, texting can also be a tool that teens prefer to use when sharing information about where to meet up when they don’t want to be overheard.
How are teens using their high-tech phones?
Teens are using their cell phones in very creative ways. Instead of passing notes in class, they sometimes send text messages. In addition to text messaging, teens can also access the Internet and download pictures, videos, and music with their cell phones. It’s an instant source of information, from finding out about the latest parties to contacting the closest drug dealer.
They can also receive messages from anyone, friend or not, as long as the other person has the cell phone number. This can include spammers, scammers, identity thieves, online predators, and cyberbullies.
Teens can also be alerted to a text in very discrete ways, either by downloading a ring tone that is out of pitch range of most adults or by putting their phones on vibrate. Newer cell phones enable teens to capture the moment with photos, ring tones or short video clips – a fun and mostly harmless feature – except when inappropriate images are captured and shared for all to see.
Some teens have even gone as far as creating a ring of contacts through text messaging to make and alert friends of where parties with alcohol and drugs are being held.
What are the dangers and advantages that parents should be aware of?
•It’s hard to monitor teens when you can’t hear or understand what they’re saying or who they’re making plans with. Text messaging allows teens more discretion than you might be comfortable with, and more opportunity for them to leave you in the dark about their plans.
•Too often, teens mix cell phone use and driving, a dangerous, deadly and often illegal combination.
•Troubling photos/videos taken with a cell phone by or of your teen can quickly and easily be posted to a Web site for anyone to see.
•Cell phones offer a convenient method for parents to stay connected and check in with their teens at any time of day.
•Text messaging is great for dropping quick, short notes, especially when there’s a lot of surrounding noise.
What are the warning signs of cell phone misuse?
As a parent, you’ll be able to tell if your teen is overusing his/her cell phone by the amount of time they are spending text messaging their friends. Do they run to answer the phone/text, then hide out to respond to it? Do you catch them talking or texting late at night or at times when they said they would be doing something else?
What can you do? Check your phone bill. Most companies can provide an itemized list of incoming and outgoing calls and text messages on your monthly statements. Make sure you recognize the numbers on your statement, and if you don’t, ask your teen to identify them.
What should you do to curb the cell phone misuse?
1. Set ground rules with your teens about who can have their cell phone number and what to do when they receive an incoming call or message from someone they don’t know. If they break the rules, consider taking the phone away for a period of time.
2. Know what the cell phone rules are at your teen’s school and enforce them with your teen. Are they banned? Can they be used between classes?
3. Negotiate an agreement with your teen that if they use more than a certain number of cell phone minutes (which includes text messages), they have to pay for the overages. If this is written and you both sign it then you are both protected from pleading, "I forgot."
4. Let your teen know that, on occasion, you’ll be checking the text message outbox (review your cell phone manual for instructions on how to do that), and the monthly bill for any unknown incoming and outgoing numbers. It won’t seem like an invasion of privacy if you state upfront that you’ll be monitoring intermittently.
5. Make sure you are well-versed in net lingo and are capable of interpreting their text messages and abbreviations to keep them safe.
6. Make sure your teen is completely aware of safety issues, like NEVER driving and using the cell phone at the same time. Remind them often and be a good role model yourself.
SOURCE: Parents: The Anti-drug
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