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Talking To Teens About Social Media And Sexting

Being the first group of parents to have to have to parent an all digital generation of kids, it’s no wonder our brains go on overload trying to sort out not only how to use all things digital but keep our developing kids safe and thriving in their ever digital lives.

I talked about these issues today on Fox25 Boston and highlighted the new social media and sexting tips out from the American Academy of Pediatrics in honor of Internet safety month. Here’s the clip of the segment with all the details:

To remember the key points of the new AAP tips, I came up with the mnemonic “TECH”:

T: talk to your kids about their technology use and what they think of technology and the issues they hear about online.

E: educate yourself about the technology your kids are using, your kids about the issues, and your community about the need for youth education programs in schools as support for the issues

C: check your kids online profiles and logs often, and sometimes without warning

H: have a family tech use plan and follow-through when violations occur.

We know how to parent off line. We know how to create consequences when curfews are broken and expectations for social rules and proper behavior are not met. What we have to do now is modify our already great parenting skills to the online world. These tips are the first step!

Plus, keep in mind, you are not alone. Not only are all the parents around you in the same boat but you have experts like me here to help answer your questions about the high tech lives of kids.

I had a great chat after the segment with many FoxNews25 viewers and will post what we talked about soon so everyone can benefit. In the meantime, if you have questions about your own “Networked Family” or a story to share from your own “Networked Family” archives, email me at ideas@pediatricsnow.com.

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*

What Features Do Teens Need On Cell Phones?

Cell phones are their feature are an ever growing topic in today’s families. It used to be that the hot button issue was whether to get the phone. Now, we have to deal with all the features: texting, Internet, camera…to name the tip of the iceberg!

Clearly we’re becoming a more mobile society with our cell phones taking over features previously reserved for our computers. A recent Nielsen Wire report confirms this observation showing that in Q1 of 2009 21% of cell phone owners used their phones to search the Internet, up from 16% in Q4 of 2008.

At the moment, digital plans are pricey so it’s easy to lock our kids out of their cell phone Internet access. However, not too long ago we said the same exact thing about texting and now we have affordable unlimited texting plans.

Given the impulsivity of tweens and teens and how difficult it is for us to help kids with appropriate Internet use on computers, do we want to open the door to having them have access to the Internet on cell phones? Once data plans become more affordable, should we let them have cell phone internet access?

Perhaps it would be easier to answer if asked slightly differently. How are our teens and tweens doing with the digital cell phone freedom they have right now? Given the rise of extreme texting and sexting, I’d say not so great. Before we open the door to new issues and digital freedoms they are not ready for, we have to help them more with the freedoms they already have – and are clearly struggling with. Plus, as parents, we are still sorting out the issues with the digital uses of technology our kids are currently using. Let’s sort those out first before we give the green light to other mobile freedoms that will certainly be more complex and harder to control.

If all goes well, data plans will remain unaffordable for a while longer so we won’t have to cross another digital bridge none of us are ready for.

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*

Reaching Adults – Teens Text Questions About Sex

As if we needed any more indications that the sexuality education we teach in schools might not be working, the latest place for teens to find answers to their questions is via cell phone.

In spite of web sites that allow teens to ask anonymous questions like We’re Talking Teen Health and Go Ask Alice!, teens are still looking for answers to immediate sexuality-related questions, and texting them is the newest way to get answers.

In California, teens can text their sexuality questions to ISIS by texting the word ‘hookup’ to the phone number 365247 which will allow them to sign up for weekly health tips. Each tip contains a prompt to text the word ‘clinic’ plus a zip code to get contact information for two local clinics.

In North Carolina, they can text questions to The Birds and Bees Text Line. Both services provide non-judgmental and medically accurate information within 24 hours to teens with questions.

Neither site provides medical advice, only information from an adult and encouragement to seek medical care. The important part is that these services are another place teens can reach out to adults for information and support.

I worry a little bit about what happens when teens admit they were raped, or are being sexually abused – what do the adults receiving this information do – and are they responsible for reporting what they learn to the authorities, but I guess that is a abridge we cross when we come to it.

For now, I am happy there are more adults willing to provide the information teens need to make good decisions, get medical care, and protect themselves. As always, parents would be the best source of sexuality information, but they might need their own texting site for their questions!

This post, Reaching Adults – Teens Text Questions About Sex, was originally published on Healthine.com by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

When Your iPhone Finishes Your Sentences

I personally find the word-completion tool kind of annoying on the iPhone – especially as a doc. The software is geared towards choosing the most common word after a few letters, and you can bet that physicians are not typing out common words. Like “emycin” is not “empty” – I’m just sayin’.

A couple of awkward ones recently – my friend was texting me about a tragic and unexpected event and I responded with “Geeze!” which (as I pressed send) turned into “Geese!” That one was hard to explain, and quite insensitive at the time. Err…

Another friend of mine was dealing with a sick kitty at home. She had taken the cat to the vet because she’d stopped eating/going to the litter box. The kitty was diagnosed with an infection and was on the road to recovery, when a couple days later she had her first bowel movement. So my friend decided to text her husband the good news via her iPhone. She typed “the cat went poo,” but alas, the iPhone had the last word. Her husband received this alarming, if not perplexing text message:

“the cat went pop”

Have you had similar iPhone drama? Do share…

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