Teenagers and the security of text messages

Text messaging is the method of communication with friends preferred by most adolescents, surpassing email, instant messaging, and telephone and even in person contact, according to a 2009 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. One in three teenagers sends more than 100 text messages per day, equivalent to more than 3,000 texts per month. Although text messages may seem like an innocuous form of communication, there is the possibility of danger if it is not handled responsibly.

Texting and driving

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, texting while driving is illegal in 39 states, but do not count on the law to prevent your teen from texting while driving. If you take your eyes off the road, even for a few seconds, it can lead to a collision, serious injury or even death. Consequences may include imprisonment, loss of driver’s license and possible suspension from school. More than 1.3 million accidents each year are caused by drivers who talk on cell phones or send text messages, according to the National Safety Council. Car accidents are also the leading cause of teen deaths, reports Minnesota Public Radio.

Sexting or sex by text message

“Sexting” refers to text messages that include explicit sexual pictures or messages, such as sexual acts and nude photos. Adolescents should be aware of the possible emotional and legal consequences of sexting. Even a private text with sexual content can be forwarded to a contact list of hundreds of people, leading to embarrassment and humiliation. Once the photograph or message is made public, there is no way to undo the damage. Sending sexually explicit photographs of a minor is also a crime, which can lead to a permanent police search, school suspension or criminal prosecution. Tell your child that he should never send text messages with sexually explicit content. If you receive this type of text, you should not respond.

Sleep interruptions

Most teens need about 8 1/2 to 9 or more hours of sleep each night to function at optimal levels the next day, according to TeensHealth.org. Your child may be missing out on the necessary sleep time by staying up late to send and receive text messages. If the texts are emotional or cause stress (such as romantic ones) I could exchange intense texts until morning. Lack of sleep can affect your academic performance and limit your ability to excel in extracurricular activities, such as team sports. Set limits on your child’s text messages, such as banning text messages after 9:00 p.m. To help avoid temptation, remove your child’s cell phone from their room at night.

Text messages when walking

Texting while walking prevents teenagers (and adults) from seeing where they are going and being completely aware of their surroundings. The American College of Emergency Physicians reports an increase in injuries to pedestrians, while texting, including falls, colliding with skaters and cyclists, and even crossing directly in traffic, sometimes with deadly results. Texting while walking becomes even more dangerous at night when the vision is already compromised. Establish a clear rule for your teenager: You should never send text messages while participating in physical activities that require your full attention, such as walking, boating, biking, skating, or playing contact sports.

Stay safe

Before letting your child get a cell phone, let them know that having one is a privilege, not a right. It establishes clear rules and limits regarding text messages, particularly never placing oneself or others in danger. You should periodically check your text messages, and let them know in advance that you are going to do that. If you discover that you are not following the rules or your text messages become so excessive that they interfere with your school work, take away your cell phone and only allow you to send text messages when it can be monitored.