Thursday, July 26, 2012

Teens and Tech: How Much is Too Much?

Your teens and you probably have more in common than you think in today’s technological world. For one, you are both probably tuned in to the latest advancements in technological gadgets, be it cell phones, home entertainment systems, music, and more. But is that necessarily a good thing?

In the cases of many parents today, looking back on their teenage years and watching the world in which their teens live, they see a big difference. It oftentimes boils down to this: How much technology is too much for your child?

According to research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, more than three-fourths of teenagers have cell phones in their possession (a higher percentage than possess computers). The research goes on to point out that on average, teenagers send 50 text messages a day, or 1,500 a month. Many teenagers are also logging onto the Internet on their phones (approximately 35%, according to Pew), yet the majority of them still utilize computers to go online.

So, should you as the parent of a teen be worried that too much of their time is being plugged into the technology world?

The Pros and Cons of Our Technological World

It is important to look at both the pros and cons of such devices before you make a final judgement on whether or not your teen should have them in their possession.

First, here’s a look at some of the most popular items and how they can negatively impact your teen:

* Phones - How many times have you had the discussion with your teen about cell phones and driving? As statistics have shown, talking or texting on a cell phone while driving can be a recipe for disaster. Along with the fact that teens are typically not the greatest drivers due to their lack of experience behind the wheel, cell phones in the hands of teen drivers not only puts them at risk, but also other drivers on the road. If your teen insists on having their cell phone in use while driving, make sure it is a hands-free device.
* Computers – Assuming that there is a computer in your home and you are the parent of a teen, it is important to properly monitor their online activities. As too many parents know, teens–especially young girls–are prime targets for online sex offenders. Whether your teen is 13 or 19, if they are living under your roof and your rules, you have every right to monitor their online footprint. That being said, it is good for parents and teens to come to a mutual agreement in this area so that the teen does not tune out your concerns, feeling you are trampling all over their privacy.
* Video games – You no doubt remember your teenage years a few decades back when video games were all the rage. There is a strong likelihood that you played them for hours and hours every week, sometimes driving your own parents nuts. In today’s video gaming world, more and more of the games involve more violent themes than a few decades ago, so parents should have their finger on the pulse of what their teens are playing. If your teen is addicted to such video games morning, noon, and night, have a talk with them about your concerns and what they can do to alleviate them.
Now, here’s a look at the same items and how they can positively impact your teen:
* Phones – Your teen is out on a date and/or behind the wheel. They run into some form of trouble and need to reach you immediately. Having a cell phone on hand is a great means by which to reach out for help, be it a broken down car, an injury, or a run-in with a stranger or the law. Parents should be able to sleep a little better at night or relax more during the day knowing their teen is armed with a way to communicate with them quickly if necessary.
* Computers – For teens that are considering college or the military down the road or even going out into the working world right after high school, computers are essential. Unlike when you went to school and computers were still in their infancy, today’s job world and furthering one’s education demand computer skills. Computers are a great means by which your teen can research, write reports for school, and more. While you do not want your teen addicted to the computer, by all means encourage them to have regular interaction with a laptop, desktop, or mobile device.
* Video games – Given that there is a good chance your teen is not going to go into a career in the video gaming world, you have a good argument for not wanting them to spend 24/7 playing video games. On the other hand, games that are not violent-laden can help your teen with computer skills, thinking skills, reactionary skills, and more. There are many video games out there where both you and your teen can compete together, bringing with it more family time.

With Knowledge in Hand, Is it Time to Talk to Your Teen?

Now that you can see the pros and cons of such devices, is your teenager properly spending time on these items, or are they what you might consider out of control?

If you are not sure how to go about monitoring your teen’s time with cell phones, computer, video games, and other such devices, at least know some of the warning signs of too much activity. From browsing online sites they should not be viewing to wanting to borrow your credit card for online purchases, nip the problem in the bud before it causes trouble for both you and your child.

In the event that you are seeing your teen’s grades drop, if they seem more tired than usual, if you witness them removing themselves from family activities to spend more time in front of a computer and/or playing video games, you need to have a talk with them.

Today’s technology presents great opportunities for teens to learn, expand their horizons, and be in constant contact with you. It also has the same abilities to make teens become removed from the family, limit their growth, and come in contact with the wrong people.

Contributor: With 23 years of experience as a writer, Dave Thomas covers a wide array of topics from home improvements with Cincinnati air conditioning to buying the right electronic products for your home.

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

When Parents Read Their Teen's Emails, Texts

Snooping verses monitoring and knowing the difference.

This has been a debate for years and the answer comes back to when safety trumps privacy…
Especially now as technology is in the hands of every teens and many tweens, parents need to be in tune with how are teens are dealing with peer pressure, friendships and most of all, school life.

Teenagers earn their trust with their parents. Respecting each others privacy should always be priority, however if you fear your teenager is heading down a dark path, and is not willing to talk to you or a third party (therapist, guidance counselor, relative or adult friend), you may have to cross the line of trust.

What are some of the warning signs that may prompt you to cross this line?
  • Is your teen becoming very secretive? Sure, teens do like their privacy, however if you have a “gut feeling” something is deeper than a secret, you may have to cross that line.
  • Is your teen becoming withdrawn? Again, teens will develop some attitudes of not wanting to be with adults, however when it becomes extreme, it may be time to cross that line.
  • Is your teen changing peer groups? And this is not into a better one, however to one that is less than desirable? You will again attempt to talk to your teen and find out why and what happened to the other friends.
  • Is your teens eating habits changing?
  • Is your teen sleeping a lot? Bloodshot eyes? Do you suspect drug use?
  • Is your teen sneaking out? Becoming extremely defiant? Not respecting your boundaries?
  • Overall, is your teen slowly becoming a child you don’t recognize?
Are you snooping or are you legitimately monitoring your teens?
Should you read your teen’s diary? Scroll through their text messages or even befriend them on their social networking sites? That is a personal question only you can answer.
Remember writing can be very healthy for teens (and adults for that matter), so if your teen isn’t giving you any valid reasons to “invade their privacy” – respect it.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens.

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Texting vs Talking: Will Your Teen Be Able to Interview?

Texting is how the majority of teens communicate.

But how will they survive in a college interview?

In a face to face job interview?

Some universities no longer include public speaking on their list of required core courses, but the current rate of teen texting may require further training in face-to-face communication skills.

According to a 2011 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center on teens, smartphones and texting, 77% of 12 to 17-year-olds have a cell phone, with 23% of them owning a smartphone. The bulk of ownership was concentrated among the older crowd (14-17 years old), and the choice of communication for all age groups was texting.

Only 39% of teens surveyed say they actually use their cell phone to make phone calls. Even more disturbing, only 35% say they speak to their friends face to face outside of school. While we know that kids haven’t stopped communicating with one another (75% of all teens who own a cell phone text on a regular basis), texting as a primary form of communication may be a cause for concern.)

Besides the safety issues related to texting while driving (26% of teens say they text while driving), texting as a means of communication can also spell trouble for basic speaking skills. Inherently, texting was meant to be a short, quick way to send information to someone.

For example, the location, date and time of a meeting or the phone number of a client, but when the younger crowd gained possession of cell phones, texting became a replacement for the good old-fashioned phone call.

There are some benefits of having a conversation via text; you can think about what you want to say before texting, and you can send information to multiple friends at once. However, there are negative things about texting, too. For example, if your conversation is extensive, it will take longer through texting than through a phone call.

Also, texting over your limit can cost you hundreds of dollars in extra charges. But the main problem with teens choosing texting as their primary form of communication is the lack in proper grammar, spelling and word usage.

Not that language use among average American teens has ever been at proficient levels, but the current use of texting certainly can’t be helping the situation. Most teenagers have always been a little shaky when it comes to proper salutations and professional face-to-face dialogue, but texting is the metaphorical end of the rope when it comes to spelling and choice of words.

In fact, if we could get a manuscript of an average teen’s text conversation, it would more than likely mostly contain the abbreviation LOL and the words OK, cool and like…and not much else. In addition to spelling and grammar issues, texting could also be weakening the average person’s ability to “think fast,” because it allows you to respond slowly.

It’s not that today’s teens are less intelligent than those who came before them, but they certainly aren’t practicing their language skills on a regular basis. If America is to become a more adept society, parents must start teaching the importance of proper verbal and written communication. After all, you can’t conduct a job interview or present a business proposal via text. We owe it to our children to demand a little less texting and a lot more talking.

This is a guest post by education writer Barbara Jolie. Barbara is passionate about education and studying online. When not writing and thinking about all things education, Barbara is busy planning her next vacation and caring for her pet cat and bird. You can reach her at