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Does knowing what they are talking about help prevent problems for your teenager or does interfering create problems for them? It is estimated that around 75 percent of American teens own a working cellphone.
This is the age of the wireless technical world, after all. The cellphone is now a huge part of communicating with your adolescent. It is a must-have toy these days, the Rubic’s Cube of the new millennium.  Well, it is a little better than that, but you get the point. Cellphones are as much a part of everyday life as is microwaves, zippers, and toilet paper. It is something that each person takes with them wherever they go. It is something that can be utilized for communication, education, socialization, documentation, direction, recreation, and distraction.

One study by the research organization IGR, found that 50 to 70% of teens ages 12 to 14 have a cellphone and the percentage is higher among those 15 and older. A large study by senior research specialist Amanda Lenhart found that nearly 70 percent of teenagers conveyed that they spoke with their parent on the phone at least once a day.

A professor at California State University, Dr. Robert Weisskirch, surveyed 196 parent-teenager pairs. He found that the use of the cellphone increased positive communication, especially when the teen contacted the parent regarding social support. The author stated that it was not surprising that a teen calling to “ask and confer” allowed for a better parent-teen relationship. More trust is there when the parent knows the teen asks before doing certain activities. There were more conflict and self-esteem issues when the parent called to “monitor” the teen regarding homework, whereabouts, or to verbalize that they were upset with the teen about something. Ms. Lenhart’s research found that frequent calls from parents who were worried or appeared anxious increased tension between the parent and teenager. Disciplining over the phone is not recommended by this specialist. This is where the cellphone turns into the electronic leash.

Dr. Weisskirch warned that the cellphone should not be used as a substitute for a real parent-child relationship. Face-to-face communication is a necessary component of adolescent parenting. The phone should enhance parenting and assist the parent aid the teenager in making good decisions. It can be a good way to teach your teen responsibility and about finances. Depending on the type of phone plan and technology of phone your teen has, the expense can be a problem for many middle class American families. Many parents are willing to afford the expense in exchange for the peace of mind that comes from the increased ability to maintain contact with their active teen.

Many psychologist and scientific research warn about the lack physical socialization that the technological wave of social networking and cellphone usage has brought about. While some enjoy active social lives, others feel lonely from the coldness that comes with this type of virtual communication that has replaced humanistic communication. The interpretation of messages can be altered when the tone of voice is missing. Words on a screen aren’t as comforting to some teens as the actual spoken words. Parents should remember to use the cellphone as an assistant to parenting, not a way to passive-aggressively communicate with their children.

  • Rabin, R.C. of The New York Times. (2011). What Cellphone Calls Say about Parent-Teenager Relations.
  • Liebert, M.A. (2011). No Crossed Wires.
  • Photo courtesy of MoreSatisfyingPhotos on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/jeff_kontur/3913819300/