07 Dec 2010

Catholics weigh in on teens’ excessive use of Facebook, texting

Parental involvement is key. If your children text or are on Facebook, how do you monitor it? Time limits? Text limits? Hmmm…

Full story here, bits below.

Business Week sparked debate on Nov. 9 by reporting that teens who “hyper texted” (over 120 messages sent per school day) and “hyper social networked” (over three hours spent on networking sites per school day) showed an increase risk of dangerous health behaviors such as smoking, drinking and sexual activity.

Hyper-networking was also associated with increased likelihood of stress, depression, suicide, poor sleep, poor academics, television watching and parental permissiveness, according to researchers at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland.

Although the amount of texting and hours spent networking online cited by the study might sound drastic to the average adult, many teens don’t see it as abnormal.

“Today’s young people are raised in a media saturated culture and using these various forms of communication is really like breathing to them,” Catholic author Teresa Tomeo told CNA in a Dec. 4 e-mail.

Tomeo, a former journalist and syndicated talk show host who also writes faith-based books for teens, said that parents are overwhelmed and often can’t keep up with their children’s ability to communicate through modern technology. She added that many parents are also caught up in “their own addictive media habits” and lack the discipline to challenge their kids to use media responsibly.

“Parents need to be more involved and really get a handle on what their children are doing online,” she stressed. “They need to educate themselves, set and stick to guidelines and not be afraid to be parents or to set limits and restrictions on the amount and types of media usage.”

One unlikely supporter of parental involvement is 16 year-old Jonathan from Omaha, Nebraska, who spoke to CNA on Dec. 6. Although excessive texting didn’t land him in rehab, he noticed a sharp decline in his school performance when he got a cell phone earlier this year.

His homework began to suffer and he even found himself losing sleep, carrying on conversations with friends via text long into the night. When his parents noticed on their cell phone bill that he had racked up 3,000 texts in one month, they staged an intervention of sorts.

“They took my phone away,” he recalled. Though he was angry at first, Jonathan said he eventually understood. He said that he felt strangely relieved and noticed one day while riding in the car with his mom that they were actually carrying on a conversation instead of him being perpetually glued to his phone. Additionally, his school work started to improve.

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