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At the parent-teacher conference, you learned that your teen can hardly keep her eyes open during class, despite her early bedtime. One look at your cell phone records, however, and the mystery is solved -- she's sent 6,000 texts during the past month. This scenario isn't uncommon, and a teenage texting habit can be very difficult to break, even when parents and teachers implement rules to try to curb excessive texting.
"Some kids can text in their pocket without even looking at the phone," said Lorraine Proud, LPC, a school counselor with Nacogdoches Independent School District in Nacogdoches, Texas. "Sometimes the thought of being without the phone for even an hour is anxiety-producing."
Proud sees a number of problems with excessive texting. "When the child can't focus in the here and now, it is a problem," she said, lamenting the fact that many teens have a difficult time giving others their full attention when they have their phone in hand.
Proud is also concerned about the effect of texting on relationships. "It's an inauthentic social context. It's not the same as building a relationship one-on-one." Texting also can make your teen appear rude. After all, sending a text during dinner with Grandma may not go over very well.
A simple solution to the problem is to limit your teen's ability to text. No, you don't have to duct tape his hands together. Rather, you can call your cell phone provider and ask to have parental controls added to your his phone line. These controls, which typically cost a few extra dollars each month, allow you to set the number of messages he can send and receive. You can also limit the hours that he can text, turning off the ability to send smilies and LOLs after 10 p.m., for example. Sprint, AT&T and Verizon, among others, offer this service.
Just as you keep your children from eating the entire bowl of cake batter, you can keep kids from texting non-stop. Set limits on this behavior just as you would any other undesirable action. Proud recommends talking to your child and letting her know your concerns. Recommend a healthy behavior to replace the texting, such as walking to a friend's house. Let her know that if she continues to send over 500 text messages a month or text after bedtime that you'll confiscate her phone.
To teach self-control in this area, Proud recommends "making little rules like 'no texting at dinner.'" You can designate text-free zones, such as the dining room, as well as text-free hours, such as between 4 and 6, when homework is a priority in your house. Put the focus on preventing kids from spending every waking moment texting, and you'll teach them self-control that will spill over into other areas of their life as well.