It is no secret that teenagers are addicted to their phones. Phones are like a third arm for teenagers. Cell phones are the first thing teenagers pick up when they wake up and probably the last thing they use before they go to bed. Teenagers texting all the time might seem harmless and the norm, ‘That’s just how teenagers are,’ but it can have many long-term and short-term consequences.
According to a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project study, 96 percent of young adults own a cell phone. Young adults text the most of any age group, swapping 100 plus texts per day and 3,200 texts every month. Three-fourths of teenagers aged 12 to 17 own cell phones, and their texting is nowhere close to that of young adults. They are the champions of excessive texting.
In this article, we are going at the dire consequences that teens texting can have on themselves and others. But not all hope is lost; we will also give you a couple of tips that you can adopt to reduce teenagers texting to a healthy amount.
Negative effects of teenagers texting
1. Dangerous driving
Texting while driving is more rampant, if not worse, than driving while under the influence of alcohol. Teenagers believe that they can swiftly drive while texting just because they are always on their phones.
In fact, 77% of them genuinely think they can send text messages while driving comfortably and safely. This is widely inaccurate because, in 2011, well over 23% of all road accidents were associated with a driver using a cell phone while driving. Whether you are an experienced driver, driving while texting requires that you look at your cell phone for a couple of seconds. In five seconds, anything can happen.
2. Less real-life person-to-person communication
As much as you constantly text one person in a day, it cannot compare to real-life conversations with nonverbal cues and a back and forth. Texting involves a lot of emojis, thinking before you send a response and even breaks.
When teens texting is their primary source of conversation and socializing, it gives them a warped view of social interactions. As a result, they may become reclusive, shy and anxious in social settings.
In addition, when they meet their friends, because they are constantly on their phones, they won’t take time off to properly interact with each other and catch up, which affects their ability to form deep and meaningful friendships.
3. Texting interrupts other activities
Teenagers texting is not only harmful when driving or during social interactions. It also reduces their focus during other activities like studying or during class. For example, students who are allowed to have their phones during classes will usually text under their desks and miss valuable material. In addition, while they are studying, they will take multiple breaks to text their friends, check their social media profiles, and cover little ground.
Sexting is the practice of sharing sexually explicit messages, pictures, or videos using a phone, laptop, or other electronic gadgets. These photos and videos include nudity (partial or full) or simulated sexual/ explicit acts. It also includes text messages discussing or proposing sexual encounters.
Sexting is dangerous because it is a behaviour that teens texting should not be engaging in. It is also harmful because it exposes them to sexual predators who might be masquerading as fellow teenagers in an attempt to start a sexual relationship and groom these teens, texting them back.
It should be noted that exchanging sexually explicit content that involves a person under the age of eighteen constitutes a felony in some states.
Teenagers texting all the time also exposes them to cyberbullying. Because they are always on their phones, they curate these faux virtual personalities that they take much pride in. But unfortunately, these virtual presences give them a false sense of confidence and attention that can quickly turn negative.
When they say one wrong thing or post a picture that their followers find ugly or unfit for social media standards, they may be bullied, ridiculed and laughed at, triggering anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, and suicide in the worst case.
What can parents do
1. Talk to children
Before giving your teenager their first phone, talk to them about reasonable phone usage. Tell them about the wonderful experiences they can miss if they spend too much time on their phones. Also, speak to them about the negative side of phone usage like distracted driving, sexting and harassment and how to combat it.
2. Encourage teenagers not to overthink messages
Teenagers are sensitive and so may take small and meaningless things personally. Tell them that different people have different texting styles: Some are expressive and talkative, while other teens texting may be brief and plain. They should not take the latter’s words as cold and unfriendly. In cases where they are confused or bothered, a quick phone call can fix any misunderstanding.
3. Install drive cams
Nowadays, you can install drive cams in your teenager’s car to monitor their driving etiquette and behavior. The best part is that you do not have to watch it in real-time. Instead, many of these drive cam apps will send you an instant report once your child concludes their trip.
4. Limit screen time
Set rules with your children about phone usage and no phone zones that are non-negotiable such as at bedtime, meal-time, while driving, during family events or religious events like while in the church or mosque. You can also limit their screen time to a couple of hours a day, and when these hours expire, they have to hand over their phones.
You can also create punishments for using phones after their curfew or in the designated no-phone zones. To instill good behavior, also reward them for complying with the rules.
5. Learn teen slang
Nowadays, teens use expressions and slang words that their parents do not understand. However, these can indicate that your teen is discussing risky behaviors. When this happens, speak to your child and let them know about the dangers of risky behavior and sneaking around.
6. Use parental control apps
There are also a variety of apps available for download for use on children’s smartphones. Some prevent drivers from answering calls or texts while driving. Others can send comprehensive reports of teenagers’ texting/ phone behaviour directly to parents.
MMGuardian is one such app. It is easy; All you do is log onto the Parent Web Portal and check the ‘Report detailed SMS data’ box on the Phone Usage page, and that is it. The MMGuardian app will start sending reports (overnight) of all the SMS messages exchanged.
If you’d rather not trawl through the potentially hundreds of texts sent/received, you can set up a list of sensitive words, and you’ll be alerted when a text message sent or received contains a matching keyword. So, if you haven’t used the text monitoring and reporting feature of MMGuardian, you should probably give it a try.
We hope that this helps you fully utilise the powerful parental control features offered by MMGuardian Parental Control.
Happy Parenting in a mobile and connected world.