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Got a Texting Addict on Your Hands?

It's possible to set reasonable expectations for your teen regarding texting. Here are a three ways to do it.

Most people know the feeling: There's an open package of Oreo cookies on the counter. You tell yourself, "I'll just have a couple," then before you know it you've tossed back six or seven. With each taste, you're conflicted. You can tell you have had enough. You know you should stop. 

But every bite delivers a sugar rush that won't let you. You've lost control. Would you believe it if I told you that your teen's text-messaging habit might be every bit as addictive? According to Dr. Gary Small, author of iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind (William Morrow 2009), a teen who habitually texts receives a rush in his or her brain. Small reports that neuroimaging studies show that when a teen sends and receives texts, the same part of his brain lights up as an addict's. There is a release of dopamine in their system that causes a feeling of pleasure or reward. In the end, you have to be the parent when it comes to unplugging. Without being heavyhanded it is possible to set reasonable expectations. Here are a three to start with:

1. Limit the number of texts.

The average texting teen now sends more than 3,000 texts a month. Consider putting a cap on the maximum amount of texts that can be sent/received each month. Anything over that amount she has to pay for. The goal here isn't necessarily to limit texts - it's to teach moderation in all things.

2. School is for school.

Definitely no texting during school hours. This is also a big temptation for cheating among students.

3. Put the phone in a public place.

At the end of the day, everyone's phones should go on the counter to avoid the temptation to text at night and thus lose sleep. This isn't about trust. It's about helping your teenager understand the rhythm concept. If Solomon lived today, he might say, "There is a time to text, and a time to sleep."

These are but a few ideas to consider. You've still got to use discernment to know what is best for your child, depending on how extreme the texting situation. In order to get both of you on the same page, consider using a cell phone contract. Just like the piece of paper you had to sign before walking out of the phone store, have your teen sign one that states your expectations as well as the recourse for breached boundaries. After you each sign it, give her a copy to keep.

This shows her that you are raising the bar of responsibility in her life and that having a cell phone is a privilege to be exercised wisely.


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This article is courtesy of Parenting Teens.

Brian Housman has been working with parents and teens for more than 20 years and is a regular speaker at camps and conferences. You can connect with Brian on Twitter at @awaketolife and read more from him on teens and technology in his book Tech Savvy Parenting.