Be aware of cyberbullying

Cyberbullying refers to sending harassing texts, emails or instant messages, as well as posting intimidating or threatening content on websites or blogs.

Naturally, cyberbullying can make a teen feel unsafe and might lead to school absences or other problems. It might even be a contributing factor to teen suicide.

Encourage your teen to talk to you or another trusted adult if he or she receives harassing text messages. You might also suggest rejecting texts from unknown numbers.

On the flip side, make sure your teen understands that it isn't acceptable to spread rumors or bully someone through texting. Remind your teen that any text message he or she sends can be forwarded to anyone else, so it's important to use good judgment with every message.

Actively monitor your teen's messages

Sit down with your teen and look through his or her text messages occasionally — or let your teen know that you'll periodically check the phone for content. You might also review phone records to see when and how often your teen is sending and receiving texts.

As your teen gets older and engages with a wider variety of people — some of whom might be interested in inappropriate messages or contact — it becomes even more important to monitor his or her messages.

Enforce consequences

If your teen isn't willing to follow the rules and expectations you've set — or you're concerned that texting is interfering with your teen's schoolwork or other responsibilities — take action.

The options?

Remove your teen's ability to text or send pictures through his or her phone — or simply take the phone away.

Remind your teen that having a phone is a privilege, not a right. Preventing potentially serious consequences outweighs any anger your teen is likely to express.

Sept. 18, 2012 See more In-depth