Crush that Texting Addiction

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It’s 10 p.m. and your daughter’s gone to bed ... only, has she? As parents struggle to manage compulsion for their own devices, kids are struggling, too.

“Mom! I need it for homework! Katie’s helping me with my math!” The dreaded cell phone wars — and has it become a problem for your child? If she’s constantly checking her phone, sending her thumbs flying over the keys, snapping when she’s interrupted while on her device, losing sleep and not getting her work done, your teen or tween may be a compulsive texter — and unable to help it. Older kids text message more than parents know, so it may be hard to tell if your child has an issue. And it’s hardest for girls. In a new study published just three months ago, compulsive texting is more than just a distraction for females — it’s associated with lower academic performance.

The study — from the Psychology of Popular Media Culture — analyzes data from more than 400 eighth and 11th graders; results show the link between girls, excessive social media use and lower grades.

Here’s what to look for: Does your daughter feel anxious when the phone’s out of reach? When she sits down to eat with the family, does she feel the need to check it? Does she feel compelled to look at it at all times rather than just answering received texts?

The study shows that texting addiction also includes lying to cover up the amount of time spent texting and, overall, girls text compulsively at a far higher rate than boys do. The boys in the study were not at risk of poor school performance.

Texting is the dominant mode of communication for teenagers, according to the 2012 Pew Internet & American Life Project. The average number of texts sent by teens is 60 a day, with older girls having a median of 100 text messages a day and boys a median of 50. Researchers hypothesize that girls’ texts may be more emotional and tied to relationships, causing them anxiety — and more texting.

If you’re concerned about your child’s overuse of texting combined with poor academic performance, you can enforce a few simple rules to help them out. You may not be popular for a while, but in the end, your effort will be worth it. When your kids are older and able to look back at what you did, they’ll thank you for it.

Cell Phone House Rules

Concerned that your child is addicted to texting? Try these tips:

• Insist kids turn off or put up their phones during homework
• Create screen-free zones in the house
• Make dinner time phone-free time
• Establish screen-free bedtime routines

Susan Day is editor of Cincinnati Family Magazine and a mother of four.

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