Caught in the Act

by Rosalind Wiseman

Filed Under: Mobile Usage

  • T here's a plague of reckless texting behavior that is sweeping our nation.

  • Sexting, text-gossiping, texting while driving, texting from the family dinner table - these are just some of the activities that are not only distracting and taking away from meaningful person-to-person interactions, but are also resulting in motor vehicle accidents, embarrassing moments, and other serious complications.

    And guess what? I'm not talking about teens and adolescents here. I’m talking about parents!

    According to a recent LG survey1, 28% of parents have engaged in some form of sexting2; 51% have texted others while having a conversation with someone; 42% have sent a text while at the dinner table; and 38% have texted in the middle of the night.

    When adults participate in Mobile Phone Misuse, they risk: 1) suffering the negative consequences of their own behavior, and 2) setting a powerful and unhealthy example for their kids.

  • As parents, it is incumbent upon us to model positive mobile phone behavior and reinforce these behaviors with our children. We must be accountable for how we text.

  • The Behaviors

    LG research shows that kids are emulating what they see their parents doing in regard to mobile phone usage. And what exactly do these negative behaviors entail? Let’s take a look:

  • Texting while driving.
  • This is perhaps the most serious offense. Studies have shown that using a mobile phone while driving can delay a driver's reactions by as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08%. Also, driving while using a mobile phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%. Some companies, such as LG, are demonstrating the dangers of driving while texting through the use of driving simulators. While conducted in a safe environment, it is an eye-opening experience nonetheless as drivers consistently run off the road, veer into oncoming traffic, crash into the car in front of them, etc.

  • We've already seen multiple incidents across the country where texting while driving has resulted in serious injury and tragic fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted driver, and more than half a million were injured.

  • If we text while driving, it sends a clear message to our teens that it's okay to do so. This is a matter of life and death; there's no gray area. We simply need to stop.

  • Texting/talking during dinner or family time.
  • We want our children to be focused and spend quality time with the family. But if we're texting instead of engaging our partners and kids, how can we expect a child to do anything else?

  • Text rage.
  • If we're engaged in a heated text conversation with our teen, our significant other, or anyone else, we need to calm down and diffuse the situation. Because these text conversations aren't face-to-face, it's easy to misinterpret a message. So, when in doubt about the meaning of a message, talk to the other person and you'll likely diffuse a potential miscommunication. Angry texts, using ALL CAPS, or rude messages not only deflate and demean our kids; they also imply that it's okay for our kids to behave in the same way to their peers.

  • Sexting.
  • Most of us are concerned about sexting among teens, and with good reason. Their naivete and lack of understanding of the consequences makes sexting especially dangerous. But, sexting poses hazards for everyone - including parents. Images thought to be personal can be shared without your knowledge or consent via text message or email and even posted on the Internet. If you have images on your phone that are of an intimate nature, and your phone is no longer in your possession (you leave it behind somewhere, you lose it, or it's stolen), you have essentially lost control of those images. Also, if your child uses your phone and sees a private photo or text message, it could certainly make it more difficult to reinforce the dangers and curtail their behavior towards sexting.

  • Bullying.
  • Believe it or not, some parents engage in this cruel behavior. With partners, co-workers, or friends, adults can be as guilty of bullying as playground children. And if you're bullying someone via your mobile phone, you're simply opening the door for your child to hurt one of his/her peers in the same way, even though sometimes they think they are doing it for the right reasons. In fact, according to a recent LG survey, 19% of kids have harassed someone or been harassed by someone via text; and 43% of kids admitted to having sent, received, or forwarded a text that contained rumors about someone that were untrue.

  • Be Accountable, Be a Role Model

    We all know that kids text, and they text a lot. However, I cannot tell you how many times I've heard middle and high-schoolers complain about their parents' constant texting! Like most things in life, we need to be sure to strike a balance between what is acceptable and what is excessive. This goes for kids - and parents. As we are in constant communications with our work colleagues and friends, we're normalizing our kids' need to always be a text away from talking to someone. While it's good to be in communication with your children, I'm hearing about some parents going over-board, texting their kids all day long.

    We can use logic to justify our mobile phone usage. Yes, we're older and have more independence. Yes, kids often don't have the evolved maturity to engage in such behavior. But, this double-standard can seem downright hypocritical and dishonest, especially to a teenager or adolescent. Once we partake in the same behavior we're trying to discipline, we lose our authority and credibility.

    Moreover, regardless of how defiant our teenage kids might be, especially when we try to set boundaries, they really do look up to us. We are their role models, like it or not, and they indeed will mimic much everything we do (not so much listen to everything we say).

    So where does that leave us? Essentially, if we want our children to be accountable and use their mobile devices responsibly, we absolutely must do it first.

  • Words Into Actions

    Let’s give our mobile phone usage a little more thought. If your kids are around, please recognize that they’re watching your actions, even if they seem uninterested. They’ll notice how you use your phone, when you text, and the nature of your messages. (visit the LG "Give it a ponder" campaign for more insights on thinking before texting and using mobile phones;

    So, put the phone down in the car, during family meals, when you greet them at school, and when you're engaged in conversation or an activity with your child. As a result, you'll give your kids more undivided attention, which they'll appreciate and value. Additionally, you'll set a great example for them on how to use mobile phones responsibly.

    Next, when you text your kids, focus on being polite and to-the-point versus impolite and quick-tempered. Avoid using ALL CAPS and behaving carelessly - even if you’ve had a tough day at the office or at home. Kids have a tremendous capacity to emulate our behavior, especially when it's how we interact directly with them. If our texts to them are angry or passive-aggressive, our kids will more likely exhibit those same behaviors with their peers. Likewise, if we're considerate, they will be too.

    Finally, start a dialogue with your kid about texting and mobile phone use. Learn how they use their phones, if they or their friends text while driving, and if they notice offensive behavior in their peers, or even in you. These discussions not only give you insight into potential issues, they also foster better communications between you and your child.

  • In some cases, your daughter or son might actually point out a few of your negative behaviors. If they do, take it as a great opportunity to respect their opinion and show them that you, too, can be human and accountable. If we own up to our mistakes, they’ll be more likely to do the same.

  • You don't want your child's mobile phone behavior to get out of control and then hear the dreaded, "I learned it by watching you!" Instead, let's step up and set good examples from the beginning.

Filed Under: Mobile Usage


Rosalind Wiseman

Rosalind WisemanAuthor of New York Times Bestseller, Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends Rosalind is passionate about her work to raise awareness on technology in society.

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