Having a teen dating is a big enough challenge without worrying about their internet and cell phone connections! However, in today’s relationships, land lines are a thing of the past and parents are unaware of whom their teen is communicating with. MySpace, other social networking sites, and texting, all remove the parent’s awareness of what is going on in their adolescent’s relationships. Although they see their teenager constantly texting or checking their MySpace, they are unaware that this could be evidence of an abusive or inappropriate relationship.Teenage Research Unlimited Survey of 13-18 (2008) found that:
● 67% of parents whose teens were monitored on their cell phones up to 30 times/day were unaware of its occurrence
● 82% of parents whose teens were sending/receiving e-mails or texts 30 times per hour did not know this was happening
● 71% were unaware that their teen was afraid to respond to their boyfriends/girlfriends cell/text/IM message or e-mail because of what they might do.

Seven steps to regain control1.

Interesting, this survey also showed that only 28% of parents limited their teenager’s use of their cell phone and on-line communication. Limitation is the first step to preventing abuse. Many teens’ secretive communication occurs between midnight and 5:00 am. Deciding on an appropriate cut off time for both the cell phone and on-line communication is necessary. For some teens, a simple agreement will suffice; however, for others, physically removing the phone and laptop will be necessary
2. Examine your phone bills and determine if there is indeed a problem. Does your teen connect with one number incessantly? Or do the numbers seem to be spread out over a variety of numbers? This will help determine the need for further intervention.
3. Many phone companies allow for parental controls on their children’s phones. This is a really good feature that too few parents take advantage of. There is a fee involved, but it can limit the hours they call/text without you having to constantly remind them when their time will be up.
4. Limit the amount of time spent on MySpace or other social networking sites. Too many vulnerable teens believe they are in a relationship only to find out the person doesn’t exist. Teen profiles are often false; they enjoy creating a fantasy identity, sometimes because they have difficulty relating to others in real social settings. A great site to check out is www.time-scout.com. The time scout monitor allows parents to control the amount of time their kids spend on the computer and removes them from the constant “just a few more minutes” battle.
5. Know whom your teen is dating and monitor where they are going.
6. Talk to your teen about normal dating practices.
7. Know the warning signs of teen abusive relationships (see future article).

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Author: Evelyn Wenzel, MSW, LCSW, CAP