You’ve no doubt seen public service announcements about the perils of texting while driving. You’ve seen the news broadcasts showing accidents caused by such behavior, or even witnessed these distracted drivers swerving or posing other safety risks (like driving in the wrong lane, sideswiping parked cars, or running others off the road). And the majority of people engaged in this activity (which has become illegal in many states thanks to hands-free driving laws and even more targeted legislation) are teens.
Not only are teen drivers inexperienced, making them a higher risk on the road anyway, but many feel that they are perfectly capable of reading and answering text messages on their phones while operating a vehicle. As accident reports continue to prove, this is not the case. But while you might be aware of the serious threat posed by teens that choose to text and drive, you may not realize that there are other dangers for teens who text.
By now you are probably familiar with a former congressman by the name of Anthony Weiner who garnered international attention by sending “private” photos to everyone on his contact list. While you might not be too worried about your teen following the example of celebrities that send out nude photos, you should be aware of a related issue known as sexting. Now that you’ve finally become aware of the dangers of online chats and taken steps to limit your teen’s access to this form of communication (and the predators that lurk there, waiting for impressionable young people to take advantage of), you may have discovered that they’ve been engaged in similar activity via their cell phone.
Of course, this will likely be limited to people they know (other kids at school or those they meet in their daily life), but this seemingly harmless activity can nonetheless be dangerous for your teen. Girls, in particular, can get into trouble with sexting (although as Weiner proved, it can happen to anyone). They probably aren’t thinking about the fact that once they hit the send button, whatever they put out there could be seen by anyone. They send explicit photos and messages intended for one party, only to realize that more people have gained access. This could happen by accident or the recipient could share the messages with others. Either way, it could open up your teen to ridicule, embarrassment, and even attack.
In addition, texting could be harmful to the health of your teen, although probably not in the way you think. Eye-strain and repetitive movement injuries from texting are certainly a possibility (although they’re not as common as you’d expect). What is more likely is that your teens will suffer from fatigue. They may stay up all night texting with friends only to get up drowsy the next morning, and this can be an extremely hazardous state to try to function in. Not only are they going to raise the ire of teachers for inattentiveness or sleeping in class; they could also suffer any number of accidents due to fatigue. Although the dangers of texting while driving or sexting may seem more extreme than fatigue, you should stop to think about which of these hazards is most likely to affect your teen. In most cases it’s probably the latter.
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