A Brief Guide to Teen Lingo

Dear Mr. Dad: My 12-year-old daughter recently had a slumber party with two friends from school. One of them left her phone. I texted my daughter so she could tell her friend, and two seconds later got this back: DO NOT READ ANYTHING ON THAT PHONE!!!!! Clearly she was trying to hide something, so I immediately opened the phone and started reading the texts—especially between this girl and my daughter. With all the abbreviations, I could hardly understand what they were talking about. But based on my daughter’s response, I’m worried. Should I be? And was I wrong to read those texts?

A: Yes and no. Your daughter’s screaming response could simply be a demand for privacy, which is something you should try to respect. However, her response seems so panicky that I think you were right to snoop. The fact that you couldn’t understand what you were reading doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything to worry about—your daughter and her friend could be having completely innocent conversations that you’re just not cool enough to understand (very few adults are). On the other hand, it could be exactly the opposite.
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Divorced? Better Stay Away from Social Media

Social media is being used for just about everything these days, from keeping up with friends and family and reporting breaking news, to getting insights into the inner workings of school shooters’ mind and vetting job applicants. Well, now we can add determining custody in divorce cases.
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Texting while Parenting? Almost as Bad as Texting while Driving.

A few weeks ago, I did a post on the dangers of texting while driving. Thousands of people are killed every year by distracted drivers (Research shows that using a cell phone while driving has about the same effect on  the driver’s  ability to focus and react as having a few beers).

But texters can do plenty of damage to themselves and others without getting behind the wheel. In fact, texting–or checking email or even talking on the phone–while doing just about anything else is dangerous.  According to Beth Ebel and her colleagues at the University of Washington, 30 percent of pedestrians are distracted in some way ( observed more than 1,000 pedestrians crossing busy streets at a variety of randomly chosen times. Thirty percent of pedestrians were distracted in some way–listening to music, texting or talking on the phone. How distracted were they? According to Ebel and her team, people whose head is buried in their phone cross the street more slowly than those without phones (about two seconds longer), are less likely to look left and right before stepping into the street, and are more likely to jaywalk. And the results can be horrific.

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Driven to Distraction—and Death

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m worried about my two teenagers. They both have a driver’s license, but even though we’ve talked about the dangers of texting while driving, I suspect they’re doing it anyway. They’re generally smart, responsible young people, but all it takes is one second. What can we do to keep them from making a mistake that could kill them—or someone else?

A: Given that more than 80 percent of teens use a cell phone while driving, you’re absolutely right to be concerned. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for all age groups from 3 to 33. In 2010, distracted drivers were responsible for 6,000 deaths in the US—a fifth of all fatalities. According to a recent study out of Virginia Tech, a driver who’s texting is 23.2 times more likely to be involved in a car accident than someone who either keeps her phone in her pocket or turns it over to a child in the back seat. By contrast, drunk drivers are only eight times more likely to get into accidents.

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Got Teen? Then You’ve Got Sexting Too

If you’ve got a teenager, you can be pretty sure that he or she is sexting. Don’t believe me? Well, according to uknowkids.com, 86% of teens who sext are not caught. So how could you possibly know?

Now that you know what to look for, be sure to check out the infographic on the next page. And consider these other interesting tidbits about your teen’s sexting activity…

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The bully pulpit

This whole bullying thing is out of control. Every day thousands of kids in the US cut school because they’re afraid of bullies. Tens of thousands more are literally sick over it, with symptoms like stomach problems, anxiety, and depression, just to name a few. And some—you’ve probably read about the cases—have actually committed suicide.

Statistics on how many kids are bullied are hard to pin down for several reasons. First, it’s hard to define. Is teasing someone “bullying”? A kindergartener in New Jersey was the subject of a bullying investigation after he said that another child had cooties. To call that bullying diminishes the seriousness of the problem.
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