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texting

How can I stop my teen from texting while driving?

by Boston Children's Hospital staff on June 13, 2012

Last week, Aaron Deveau, 18, was found guilty of motor vehicle homicide by texting and became the first in the state to be sent to prison for driving while texting.

According to reports, after being distracted by his phone, Deveau swerved his car into oncoming traffic. The resulting accident killed a 55-year-old father of three.

In a single moment, many lives were destroyed. But what makes this story even more tragic is that it was so easily avoidable. In the following blog, Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert, Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health, shares practical tips for parents on how to keep their teens from texting while behind the wheel.

Q: I’ve been begging my teen son not to text while driving, but I know he does it anyway. What can I do to get him to stop?
–Texting and Driving in Beverly, MA

A: Dear Texting and Driving,

You’re right to be concerned–according to a new study from the CDC, one third of U.S. teens report texting while driving. The issue has come front and center this past week, when an 18 year old became the first person in Massachusetts to be convicted of causing a fatal car crash while texting.

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

But stories like this and state prohibitions on texting and driving may not get the reaction you’re looking for from your son. Research shows that knowing it’s dangerous doesn’t necessarily deter some young adults from texting while driving. And because his brain won’t be able to fully process long-term consequences until he’s in his 20s, the idea that an accident like this could happen to him may just not feel real.

To get the message across, try approaching the issue in a way:

  1. Make sure to touch on consequences that he can grasp. Although it’s important to talk about the very real dangers of texting while driving, it might help to also discuss those that are closer to what he has experienced–like not being allowed to drive. The young man who was convicted this week had his license revoked by a judge for 15 years.
  2. Work with him to establish clear rules for cell phone use. He’ll want to have his cell phone with him when he’s in the car, but it doesn’t have to be a distraction. Ask him what would help him keep his eyes on the road–turning the phone off completely? Leaving it in the glove compartment or the trunk? If he owns the solution, he is more likely to feel ownership of it and to abide by it.
  3. Together, create real consequences for not abiding by the rules. Agree ahead of time on what happens if he does text while driving. Maybe for a period of time he loses the privilege of driving the car–or of having a phone.
  4. Praise what he does well, and follow through on the consequences when he slips up. Both will reinforce how important this issue is.
  5. Model the behavior you’d like to see–and put your phone away while you’re driving, too. He will listen far more closely to what you do than to what you say.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician®

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Cutting – or at least loosening – the electronic cord

by Claire McCarthy on October 12, 2010

It keeps happening, despite my attempts to discourage it. I’ll be at work, seeing a patient or in a meeting, and I’ll get a text from one of my children: I feel sick.

Now, I’m the mom and a pediatrician to boot, so I do see that there’s some sense in contacting me. But I’m in Boston, nowhere near their school, and there is actually a clear protocol for these situations, as I text them when I can get free: Go to the nurse. I’m not even the one who would go get them—my husband or mother-in-law would. But Mark and Jude don’t do text messaging (they haven’t fully figured it out yet), so the kids text me. Full story »

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Are kids addicted to their cell phones?

by Boston Children's Hospital staff on May 7, 2010

Michael Richard, MD

Michael Richard, MD

Media expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, answers your questions about media use.

Last week he answered your questions about parenting with television. Here’s this week’s question:

Q: It seems like today’s generation is always on their cell phones, iPods, Nintendos, etc., whether they are 8 years old or 18 years old. How does this happen? Is this simply a fad, or are these children addicted?
-Curious about Kids in Lamar, CO

A: Dear Curious,

I recently came across an interview with three girls who are labeled “extreme texters.”  It was fascinating to listen to them talk about how and how often they use technology, but what was most interesting to me was this comment:

Reporter: Would you say that you’re a little bit addicted to your cell phones?
Teen: I don’t think it’s being addicted to my cell phone, it’s the need to be talking to my friends, and the cell phone is just the way I get to that. Full story »

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Internet overload: Are we spending too much time online?

by Melissa Jeltsen on February 19, 2010

We’re all familiar with the myriad benefits of the Internet, a tool which has undeniably changed the way we communicate, learn and use entertainment. But how much of a good thing is too much? For a small fraction of kids, the Internet’s draw may prove too enticing, as Internet addiction (loosely defined as excessive use of the Internet that negatively impacts academic, social and family life) appears to be on the rise in much of the industrialized world.

We spoke to a neurologist specializing in the teen brain, media expert Michael Rich and a psychologist for this article about Internet addiction and its possible effects. Read on to find out what you need to know about your child’s Internet use–and how you can help them manage their screen time effectively.

That’s important to do, as a national survey recently found that the amount of time young people spend with entertainment media has risen dramatically: Today, 8 to 18 year olds spend an average of almost eight hours a day using digital media. And because they are often “media-multitasking” (like instant messaging on the computer while watching TV and texting friends on their cellphones) they actually manage to cram a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those eight hours.

So, is it bad for kids and adults alike to spend so much time using digital media? The answer isn’t straightforward, as the article makes clear, and much more research needs to be done. A Frontline documentary also probes the question.

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Other stories we’ve been reading:

Adolescents taking a certain anti-psychotic drugs are at an increased risk for diabetes. An industrial chemical is being sold as a dietary supplement for autism treatment. Diabetes drugs are helping dieting teens lose weight. [Read Minnie’s story about living with Type 2 diabetes.]

Loving foster homes improves children’s attention and impulsivity. Girls with ADHD are more likely to develop other mental health risks.

Obese boys are more likely to begin puberty later in life. A Girl Scouts’ survey found that the fashion industry pressures girls to be thin. [Read about unrealistic media images and how one teen feels about them.] Boys are treated with growth hormone therapy much more often than girls.

Babies of mothers who smoke during pregnancy are much more stressed out. [Read how dangerous secondhand smoke is to children.] Black and Hispanic infants are more likely to have HIV. Expectant mothers can receive pregnancy tips through texting.

Girls who bike to school are in better shape than those who walk or get a ride. The USDA is tightening requirements to assure school lunch safety.[Read about our nation’s fight for kids’ food.]  Overloaded backpacks set your child up for spine strain. [Read about National School Backpack Awareness Day.]

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