Smartphones and social networking create new problems for some parents

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Chances are your teenager sent or received dozens of text messages today.  In fact, new numbers suggest teens send around seven texts per hour.

It's part of the new generation; all tech, no talk.

But experts say smartphones and the growth of social networking are creating brand new problems that some parents haven't yet tackled.

A Nielsen study found teens exchange an average of 3,417 text messages a month.  And most can admit they're practically addicted.

"I have separation anxiety," said 15-year old Charlotte Kirk, when asked what happens when she doesn't have her cell phone.

Caroline Cloninger, 14, added "I go insane."

Nancy McBride at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, worries about the next generation.

"Where's your social interaction, that scares me for this generation too, not doing things that don't involve the devices," said McBride.

That same study found last year teens ages 13 to 17 increased their internet usage on their phones by 256 percent, compared to 2010.

McBride says ‘sexting' should be on the radar of parents as well.

"One girl did it to this one guy, and he kind of showed everybody and she was really upset," said 18-year old Kevin of West Palm Beach.

"People save the pictures on their computers so when they delete it, they send it all over the internet," added Cloninger.

McBride says even when you think your child is in a safe, he or she could be anywhere on the internet, and you'd never know it. "The problem is you've got a kid sitting next to a parent on a couch, the parent's reading the paper, whatever, the kid could be doing anything on here, and the parents thinks ‘oh my kids right here, everything's okay,' not so much," says McBride.

The solution, McBride says, comes down to an open path of communication with your child, limit computer or phone use, plan activities outside, talk to them about how quickly posts or pictures spread online and set ground rules about internet and smartphone use.

Then again, once you tackle these issues, you may have to learn new ones.

"After a while, I think it's going get boring, a new invention will come out, cell phone won't be as exciting," said Cloninger.

 

WEB EXTRAS:

Parents can find easy ways to talk to their kids about being safe online by clicking this link: http://www.netsmartz.org/Parents

 

TIPS (for kids) TO PREVENT SEXTING:

-Think about the consequences.

-Never take images of yourself you wouldn't want everyone to see.

-Before hitting send, remember you can't control where this image will travel.

-If you forward a sexual picture of someone underage, you are as responsible as the sender.

-Report any nude pictures you see on your cell phone to an adult you trust.

(from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

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