Parents have been texting me lots of questions about what they can do to reduce the amount of texting their older children and teens are doing during meals, when playing with friends, during homework and even when crossing the street.  Well let me see if I can send the right message about when texting is appropriate and when it’s not.

Recent studies suggest that teens send an average of over 3000 texts per month, 43% of teens say they text in class at least once a day even when they are not supposed to, and about the same percentage text during the family dinner.  Worse yet, 46% of teens admit to texting when behind the wheel even though this is illegal in both New York and Vermont.

So what can you do to prevent these moments from occurring?  First tell your children that if they need to text right away, they should pull off the road or stop whatever else they are doing – such as walking, running, riding a bike, skateboarding, or driving any kind of vehicle.

If someone your child is driving with is texting while driving, teach your children to tell the driver to stop, or suggest they not ride with that person again.  Parents you need to set the example here, and never text while driving with other passengers, especially your own children in the car.

Even if your child is not in a dangerous situation when texting, there are still manners that should be followed.  Set ground rules, such as no texting during meals or when in conversations with other family members.  If your child must look at a text they were expecting during a conversation, ask them to apologize first and ask permission to do so.   If your children violate your texting ground rules, consider removing their phone and text privileges for a week and increasing that duration with each violation.

Finally, remind your children to not text anything they are not willing to tell someone to their face, since their text can be shared with others and come back to hurt them even more. If they receive an inappropriate or sexual text with inappropriate pictures from someone, they should notify you immediately or seek help from a counselor at school to stop these texts from being sent.

Hopefully tips like this will send just the right message when it comes to establishing the ground rules for proper texting.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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