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Ask the Mediatrician: Should I worry about my teens texting?

Michael RichShould I worry about my teens texting, or is it similar to the time I spent talking to my friends on the phone when I was their age?

Q: I’ve noticed that many parents worry a lot about their children texting. But when we were kids, we would spend hours on the phone, sometimes not even talking much. When my teens are texting with friends at home, I liken it to those phone calls of yesteryear. I don’t allow texting during family meals or outings, but I am beginning to wonder if I should be worried about their texting. Is texting potentially problematic? Was that phone time even a potential problem for us back in the dinosaur days?

~ Ma Bell, USA

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When streaming music for my kids, how can I make sure the content is appropriate?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert and director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Send him a media-related parenting question via cmch@childrens.harvard.edu and follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.

Q: We like to stream music from Pandora for my kids, who are in first and second grade. Pop dance music is fun and upbeat, and my children love it. But there is a big jump in maturity from Laurie Berkner and Kids Bop to Today’s Top Hits. And though there are lots of controls to set for Internet, TV, and movies, I can’t really find any for music. What are my monitoring options for streaming music?

Mystified by Music

A: Dear Mystified,

Music is wonderful for kids! Whether they sing along or dance to the rhythm, music can engage them in melodies, develop language skills, and encourage them to move with imagination. You can share with them the music you love, and there is excellent music created especially for kids of different ages in terms of message, rhythm, and sing-along-ability.

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When and how should I introduce screens to my 2½ year old?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert and director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Send him a media-related parenting question via cmch@childrens.harvard.edu and follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Q: I have a 2½ year old, and so far, per the advice of our pediatrician, she has had no screen time. However, I have heard that educational television, such as Sesame Street, can be useful to offer in small doses after the age of two. My inclination is to continue not to offer her screen time, as I am worried that she will want to spend lots of time in front of screens (television, iPad, phone, etc.), and right now she spends most of her day reading, doing puzzles, and in imaginary play. At what point does it make sense to introduce screen time, and in what manner?

Mindful Mom, in Washington, DC

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Should I read my 14-year-old’s text messages?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert and director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Send him a media-related parenting question via cmch@childrens.harvard.edu and follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Q: Should I read my 14 year old daughter’s text messages?  I want to make sure she is safe and that she isn’t using her phone late at night.  She feels that I check her texts because I don’t trust her, but I feel that as a parent (who also pays for the phone), it is my job to make sure she is safe.

-Troubled about texting, Denver, CO

A: Your question is an important one and highlights issues that many parents deal with when it comes to being aware of a child’s activities. Make it clear to your daughter that you do trust her to do the best she can in any situation, and that you are showing that trust by providing her with a cell phone.

It is important for you, as her parent, to help guide and teach your daughter to use this powerful technology effectively on her own and in ways that promote her becoming the kind of person that she wants to become. Just as you will sit in the front seat with her as she learns to drive, your awareness of her digital activities is your way of guiding and supporting her as she learns to use this powerful tool effectively, safely, and respectfully. As her parent, you have a wealth of experience that you can share, not to restrict, but to help her learn from mistakes made by you or others rather than making them herself.

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