Concerned about teen texting? Understand how to talk to your teen about the dangers of sexting and texting while driving.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

For many teens, texting is an essential way to communicate. A lack of maturity can get your teen into trouble when texting, though. Help your teen understand — and avoid — the risks associated with texting.

Some research suggests that texting while driving is more than 20 times as dangerous as driving while not texting. Texting might be an even greater threat for teen drivers than for older drivers, since car crashes are already a leading cause of death for younger drivers.

Talk to your teen about the consequences of texting while driving, such as serious or deadly accidents. Explain that texting while driving isn't allowed under any circumstances — and that driving and phone privileges will be revoked if your teen texts while driving. Remind your teen that texting while driving is illegal in most states.

To help your teen resist temptation while driving, you might ask him or her to sign a pledge and commit to distraction-free driving. Set an example by always storing your phone in the glove compartment while driving and ask your teen to do the same. Also consider apps that block texting while driving.

Texting after turning out the lights or going to bed can interfere with a good night's sleep — especially if the messages are stressful or emotional. Some research also suggests that screen time before bedtime interferes with sleep. As a result, teens can experience lost sleep, difficulty falling asleep, poor sleep quality and daytime sleepiness.

Work with your teen to establish reasonable hours for texting — such as no texting after a certain hour on school nights. To enforce the rule, keep your teen's phone out of his or her room at night.

Sexting refers to the transmission of sexual images via cellphone and other electronic media.

Explain the emotional consequences of sexting to your teen. Sexting can be uncomfortable for the sender — especially if he or she is pressured into it — as well as the receiver.

The possible long-term impact of sexting matters, too. A picture or message meant for one person can be forwarded to an entire contact list — and once it's in circulation, there's no way to control it. A photo or message could resurface years later, causing embarrassment or problems with work or school.

Although laws and degree of enforcement might vary from state to state, make sure your teen understands that the possession of sexually explicit images of a minor is considered a crime. The consequences could be serious, including a police record, suspension from school or legal action.

Cyberbullying involves using an electronic medium to threaten or harm others. Being bullied as a child has been linked to mental health problems, impaired academic performance, substance abuse and violence.

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

Also, encourage your teen to talk to you or another trusted adult if he or she receives harassing text messages. Explain that you won't take away electronic privileges if he or she confides in you about a problem.

Know how your child is using his or her phone, as well as the Internet and social media platforms, to interact with others. 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 install a parental control system on your teen's phone to find out how much texting or Web surfing he or she is doing, and set restrictions.

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

July 29, 2015