Does it seem as though your child is always spending time on their phone or computer these days? Teens today love to use their tech toys for chatting and hanging out with their friends and making social plans. They also enjoy spending time posting their photos or videos and sharing interesting information or links they’ve found.

Parents often have two types of major concerns about all this social networking:
  1. What’s going on in this private (and yet very public) world where my child spends so much time?
  2. Is he/she spending too much time doing this? (e.g. Is schoolwork suffering? What else would I prefer to see him/her doing that rarely seems to be happening anymore?)

Wired for Distraction

Boy is sitting in front of laptop with headphone and I-Pod. If you feel that your child is spending too much time texting, talking to friends on Facebook, playing video games, and posting photos, you’re not alone! In fact, researchers who study the ways in which our teens are using technology these days are also concerned.

A major concern is that teens today are regularly multi-tasking, that is, constantly switching from texting on their phones , to finding a piece of music, to looking at homework, and to playing a video game and back again). The risk researchers say is that the developing brain can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks — and less able to sustain attention.

Also, with all this need for instant feedback and instant gratification, there is no real down time anymore for many of our kids. Down time is necessary for all of us just to sit back and let our brains rest! Time at rest allows the brain to put things together, to process all the input we’re taking in or just reflect on things a bit. An excellent article that summarizes some of the pressing concerns of teachers, parents and researchers today is Wired for Distraction.

Some teachers in Shoreline and Shorewood High Schools in Washington State decided to try an experiment. They asked their students to take on a challenge: A social media blackout! For one week, the students were asked to see if they could give up texting, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. Check out the article about what they called The Social Experiment and see some of the video about their project.

Some of the things students discovered are very interesting. For example, students were allowed to use the telephone to call friends, but as one person reported, “People sound different when they’re on the phone. It’s emotion, not just little lines.” Students also found they had time for other things like exercising or actually even doing chores around the house. One parent said she missed getting quick responses from her son, but she also liked getting calls from him and having conversations. She reported, “I’ve had more calls from him in these last four days than in six months.”


Ideas for Parents

Mother and daughter are sitting on couch; mother touches daughter’s knee as she looks at her and talks. Although some of us may wish we could go back to a time when all of this technology wasn’t so readily available for our teens, that just isn’t going to happen. So what’s a parent to do?

Some ideas that parents have tried successfully include moving the computer out of the bedroom and into a public space in the house. When the child is on the computer, it is in full view of the rest of the family.

Several parents report setting clear rules about use of cell phones and computers: No cell phone use after certain hours in the evening. All phones and computers must be turned off until the next morning. Cell phones are placed in the kitchen or another space until morning. Without limits, some teens have been known to send messages and check Facebook far into the night.

One parent decided to take action by pointing out to their daughter that the parent was the one paying the cell phone bill and that the 500 texts she was sending and receiving each day were just too much! The parent confiscated her daughter's phone for a week and then told her that in order to get it back, she was limited to a certain number of texts per day. If she exceeded that number, she would have her phone confiscated again.

While setting limits for use of tech toys may generate a lot of protests, many teens report being frustrated themselves at times when dealing with some of the situations that constant texting can create. Watch this video about textual harassment with your child and discuss whether he/she is having this problem. If yes, talk about ways that you as the parent can help them in setting some guidelines they can then share with friends. These can include making it clear to friends that your family has certain times when they are expected to spend uninterrupted time with one another and that when your child is involved at one of these times with family, they are not available (e.g. family dinners, family meetings, family get-togethers with relatives/friends).

Experts cited in the Wired for Distraction article. also offer their own advice to parents. Get involved and take time to figure out how exactly your child is spending his/her time when they’re using the Internet and other digital technology. For example, set limits on multi-tasking and entertainment when your child is supposed to be studying. Challenge them to keep instant messaging function and Facebook closed when they’re doing their homework is advice from Vicki Rideout, who has overseen studies on media and health for the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Michael Levine, another expert who studies media and learning, advises parents to consider the educational value of the web sites and games that their children are regularly using. Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, tells us that the primary use our young people make of technology is for entertainment. There are wonderful ways to use the technology for educational enrichment. Help your child achieve what Levine calls a “more balanced” media diet and explore some of these new possibilities.

Your child needs you. Don’t give up! Just because your teen is now doing new things that you don’t yet quite understand, your advice and guidance are still needed, now more than ever!

It’s time to learn more so that you can remain involved in your child’s life, ready and able to discuss the new adventures and challenges your child is now facing. Check out the ### tutorials on this site ### to find out more about some of the places your child may be visiting regularly.



Concerned girl is looking at her phone. Have you ever looked over your child’s shoulder while they’re texting to friends on their phone, for example, or involved in IM (instant messaging) conversation while supposedly doing their homework on the computer? Were you surprised to discover that your teen seemed to be speaking a whole new language! Teens have developed their own shorthand, and many adults find they are totally clueless as to how to translate the words their children are using.

It’s important that you aren’t left out ITD (in the dark) as to what’s going on. Netspeak allows its user to save key strokes as they’re trying to quickly write a message and that makes it very appealing to teens. However, this slang can also be a way to keep what they’re talking about from prying adult eyes. In these cases, adults may sometimes find themselves surprised to learn what some of this shorthand is referring to. If you’re afraid that your teen will be LOL (laughing out loud) just thinking about how little you actually know, there’s help out there! Here’s a quick list that one expert advises parents to learn to recognize:

ASL Age / Sex / Location
BF/GF boyfriend / girlfriend
PAW or PRW parents are watching
P911 parents watching
PIR parents in room
POS parents over shoulder
CD9 code 9, short for parent nearby
LMIRL lets meet in real life
TDTM talk dirty to me
GNOC get naked on cam

There’s no reason that parents should feel that they can’t also learn this new slang. It’s really not that hard and lots of help is out there. Check out these resources:

Social Networking Sites

Many of our teens today are totally engrossed in a favorite social networking site such as Facebook and spend hours each day interacting with people there. Yet lots of parents may have little or no idea as to what their teens are actually doing when they’re on these sites.

If you’re a parent who wonders what your child is really doing when they’re spending all that time on their favorite site, now is the time to find out! As some teens have told us, parents who are savvy about these sites can be scary! Some of these savvy parents, for example, have told their teens that they expect to be able to visit their child’s Facebook page regularly, for example, just as any other friend might, and if the child would be hesitant to show what is posted there to their parent, then it shouldn’t be posted for everyone else to see either!

If you have no idea as to what your child may be doing when he or she is spending hours online chatting and /or posting photos and videos, there is help. This site contains some ### basic tutorials ### to a few of the popular places that teens are using these days. To learn more, click on the site of your choice below:

Facebook MySpace Second Life



Girl looks at phone, while putting her hand to her face in horror. A lot is being written about the subject of sexting, sending nude or semi-nude photos. A survey conducted in by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and Cosmo Girl in 2008 found that 1 in 5 teen girls (22%) said they had sent electronically or posted online nude or semi-nude photos of themselves. The survey also found that one third (33%) of teen boys and one-quarter of teen girls said they have had nude/semi-nude images passed to them even though these images were originally meant to be private.
  • Sexting: Legal Consequences
    The general feeling by teens seems to be that sexting is “no big deal.” Yet, currently sexting is a felony and those sending (i.e. even if it is their own photo) and/or receiving these messages are considered in possession of child pornography. This is a crime punishable by law and many states have been taking action. If your child thinks that no one would ever know they had sent or received a message like this, you might want to show them a video that appeared on KXLY-TV in Spokane, Washington. Click here to see how some police officers go about investigating sexting using a cell phone. School districts are also becoming involved and several around the country have taken action when sexting has been discovered. Many teens feel that being under the age of 18 protects them from consequences, and that simply is not the truth.

  • Sexting: Personal Consequences
    Of course the legal consequences have to be emphasized to our teens, but the personal consequences of this action especially merit considerable attention. There are many examples of individuals who have suffered severe personal consequences for their involvement in sexting. Sexting has even been found in a few reported cases to lead to some devastating results; consider this piece that was reported about a heart-broken parent whose daughter completed suicide after suffering the consequences of having sent her photo to her then-boyfriend. (Today Show, MSNBC. Com, Sexting and Suicide)

  • Conversation Starters re: Sexting and Personal Consequences
    When considering possible personal consequences, you may find it very helpful to show your child these videos. They have elicited some strong reactions from teen girls and have been excellent for use as conversation starters. (While the videos focus on females, remember that males may also send nude, semi-nude photos of themselves.)


Online Safety

Online Safety


Connect Safely: Smart Socializing Starts Here
This website is an interactive resource about social networking on the web with resources and information for educators, parents, and teenagers. The site includes tips, news, and resources for navigating safely on social networking sites. In addition, there is a discussion forum where users can discuss important issues and concerns with one another.

Get Net Wise
The resources on this website help parents educate themselves and their children about Online safety. Information is provided about filtering software and web sites considered safe for children and teens Check out this site to see their large online collection of instructional how-to video tutorials designed to show parents how to keep online experiences safe and secure. Instructional videos range from setting your search engine to filter pornography in its search results to activating your computer's security settings.

I Keep Safe. Org
This website provides educators and parents with tools and guidelines that promote safe internet use for children. Resources include videos, tutorials, lesson plans and educational materials (for family and educators), and information about some of the risks associated with children being online.
You can join this organization and learn more about Online safety. I-safe makes information especially for parents available by contacting its website. Founded in 1998, i-safe has been endorsed by the U.S.Congress and is a nonprofit whose purpose is to protect the online safety of youth.

NetSmartz Workshop
This website provides children and teenage users with age-appropriate, interactive activities to teach how to stay safer on the Internet. In addition, the website includes tools for parents and educators about teaching safety on social networking sites and the internet.

OnGuard Online: Stop, Think, Click
This site provides quick facts about social networking sites, a parent’s guide and ways to help kids socialize safely online, and resources where parents can go for more information. It also includes information for parents about what to do if their child feels threatened by someone or uncomfortable with something going on online.

Parent Further: Online Safety
This site is provides parents and educators with information about how to “e-parent”. The resources include information about teens and computers for parents.

Prevent Cyberbullying & Internet Harassment
This site includes resources for parents and children/teenagers about online harassment. This site describes what cyberbullying involves, people that are targeted, a description of cyberbullies, as well as resources about what to do when a teen is cyberbullied. In addition, there is a discussion forum where teens and/or parents can engage in discussions with others about cyberbullying.

The National Campaign for Teen Pregnancy Prevention
This site has recommendations for parents based on a survey it helped to conduct on the subject of sexting. This survey of teens revealed 20% of teens have sent electronically or posted online, nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves. The National Campaign offers tips for parents and for teens on sex and tech in both English and Spanish.