Stories about: Texting & cellphones

Warning signs for identifying teen dating violence

The suburb of Wayland, MA, was stripped of its quiet, small town image this week when an 18-year-old resident was found violently murdered in a local marsh. The suspected killer is another 18-year-old Wayland resident, and the victim’s former boyfriend.

“I did know [the victim] and the alleged assailant, and people are very, very sad and confused,” Wayland High Principal Pat Tutwiler told the Boston Herald. “I would say that there’s no such thing as a community where things like this don’t happen.”

Unfortunately, Principal Tutwiler’s quote is frighteningly accurate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every ten teenagers has experienced some form of dating violence.

With such high incidence of dating violence among young people, it’s very possible your child or someone they know is in an unhealthy relationship. To help keep teens safe, here are some important dating violence safety tips and facts for parents and teenagers from the Massachusetts Medical Society and Children’s Hospital Boston’s Center for Young Women’s Health.

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Should pre-teens have cell phones? My 10-year-old thinks so.

My 10-year-old daughter wants a cell phone. She wants it bad. So bad that the other night I came home to the note pictured below.

Natasha's treatise, page 1

Her three older siblings got cell phones in middle school, when they began to routinely go places without us. But Natasha (who just finished 4th grade) wants one now. So she put together a treatise (you can’t tell from the picture, but it was on really big paper) about why she needs one.

The truth is, she doesn’t need one. Yes, she sometimes walks to and from school or bikes to friends’ houses. But since the school is about a seven-minute walk (we are always clear about whether someone is picking her up) and the bike ride is about five minutes, I think she can manage without a cell phone. While it might be nice to time pickup from swim practice, we’re actually reasonably good at figuring out how long it takes Tash to shower and get dressed (longer than is reasonable + 10 minutes). If we’re wrong, or there’s some sort of emergency, there are phones at the YMCA she can use.

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Mobile Mamas: Parenting in the smartphone age

Young moms are 18% more likely to have a smartphone

I’m at the age where many of my old friends are new parents. They’re a pretty diverse bunch, but one thing they all have in common is how often they use technology as a parenting tool. When we get together as a group, favorite apps and websites are traded like old family recipes; cute pictures of the kids are emailed and shared on Facebook, sometimes while sitting right next to each other. And almost all of this digital connectedness happens on their phones.

At first all this mobile mothering struck me as odd, but I’m now learning that this is fairly standard these days. According to a new report from BabyCenter, which polled over 5,000 American mothers, today’s moms are 18 percent more likely to have a smartphone than other people. In fact, over half of the women polled said they bought their smartphone as a direct result of becoming a mom.

So what is it about modern motherhood that clicks so well with smartphones? According to Lois Lee, MD, MPH, mother of a 4 and 8-year-old, and proud iPhone owner, the mobile mama phenomenon isn’t the result of changes in motherhood, but an indication that technology has finally caught up with the whirlwind pace of moms.

“Life can be pretty fast paced. To keep up, a mother needs to be good at multi-tasking,” says Lee. “Smartphones can be a great reference tool because they provide access to information in a quick and convenient medium. It’s easy to see why they’re so popular with parents.”

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@Pediatrics: the AAP comments on social media use

Image: Flickr/uberculture

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report Monday, saying teenagers who over use social media, like Facebook and twitter, could be engaging in risky behavior, with long-lasting, negative consequences. To prevent social media from becoming problematic, the AAP recommends parents monitor, and when necessary, limit their children’s use of social networking tools and websites.

But before you confiscate your kids’ cell phones and delete their Facebook accounts, it’s important to note that the AAP acknowledges that social media can be a healthy part of kids’ communication, assuming they have the proper guidelines.

“Engaging in social media is a routine activity that research has shown to benefit children and adolescents,” the report reads. “Social media allows teens to accomplish online many of the tasks that are important to them offline: staying connected with friends and family, making new friends, sharing pictures, and exchanging ideas.”

Translation: It’s not the technology that dangerous, but how it’s used that can be harmful. Constant access to information is a double-edged sword, and parents need to be mindful of that when examining their children’s online activities. For every website offering homework help, there is a site that helps kids cheat on tests. The same phone that lets them text you when they’re running late from soccer practice can easily be used to send wildly inappropriate pictures to her crush from biology class.

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