Teen texting: Help your teen avoid the risks
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. But a lack of maturity can get your teen into trouble when texting. Help your teen understand — and avoid — the risks associated with texting.
Don't allow texting while driving
Distracted driving can be deadly, especially for teens. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes in 2016. One source of distraction while driving for teens is texting.
Make sure your teen understands the risks of texting while driving. Tell your teen that texting while driving isn't allowed under any circumstances and set an example by avoiding the behavior. Create an agreement with your teen that commits you both to distraction-free driving.
Stop texting from keeping your teen up
Texting can interfere with teens' sleep, which they need for their growth, development and well-being.
A 2018 study suggests that texting at night is associated with teens going to bed later, spending less time in bed, feeling tired at school and having irregular sleep habits. Research also has shown that school-aged children and adolescents who sleep with mobile devices in their rooms are at greater risk of sleep disturbances.
Work with your teen to establish reasonable hours for texting — such as no texting after a certain hour on school nights. Keep your teen's phone out of his or her room at night.
Be honest about sexting
Sexting is the sending or receiving of nude or seminude images or sexually explicit text messages. Sexting can happen between people who are dating. Sometimes, one person pressures another into sexting to prove his or her feelings. A person also might send this kind of image or message to another without asking for consent.
Sexting can cause emotional distress for everyone involved. An image or message meant for one person can be forwarded and distributed widely — 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.
Talk to your teen about sexting. Start by asking what he or she knows and explain the consequences, which could involve law enforcement. Teach your teen to be strong and resist peer pressure to sext. Tell your teen to avoid sending anything electronically that he or she wouldn't want the whole world to see.
Talk about cyberbullying
Cyberbullying involves using an electronic medium, such as text messages, 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.
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 your teen confides in you about a problem.
Provide guidance and set limits
Texting can be tricky even for adults. Talk to your teen about how the emotions behind a text can easily be misunderstood. You might encourage your teen to actually talk to friends, rather than always texting.
Set expectations for your teen's texting behavior and keep an eye on how your teen is using his or her phone or other devices or platforms to communicate. Sit down with your teen and look through text messages occasionally — or let your teen know that you'll periodically check his or her phone for content.
If your teen isn't following your rules or you're concerned that texting is interfering with your teen's schoolwork or other responsibilities, take action. You might set restrictions on your teen's phone use or simply take away the phone. Preventing potentially serious consequences outweighs any anger your teen is likely to express.
Feb. 26, 2022
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See more In-depth
- Rice E, et al. Sexting and sexual behaviors among middle school students. Pediatrics. 2014;134:e21.
- Moreno MA, et al. What parents need to know about sexting. JAMA Pediatrics. 2018;172:400.
- Rice E, et al. Cyberbullying perpetration and victimization among middle-school students. American Journal of Public Health. 2015;105:66.
- Digital awareness for parents. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/digital-awareness-for-parents/index.html. Accessed Nov. 27, 2018.
- Falbe J, et al. Sleep duration, restfulness, and screens in the sleep environment. Pediatrics. 2015;135:e367.
- Distracted driving. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving. Accessed Nov. 27, 2018.
- Council on Communications and Media. Media use in school-aged children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2016;138:1.
- Garmy P, et al. Sleep habits and nighttime texting among adolescents. The Journal of School Nursing. 2018;34:121.
- Bingham CR, et al. Do as I say, not as I do: Distracted driving behavior of teens and their parents. Journal of Safety Research. 2015;55:21.
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- Book: Tired Teens