* Five No-Phone Zones – Are Cell Phones Coming Between Us and Our Family?

By Katie Omohundro, LCSW, Courier & Press, April 18, 2017 –

We all know cell phones and other electronic devices are here to stay, but do they have to come between us and our family? How do we balance the use of electronic devices and time with family?

It’s just as important to regulate our own use of devices as it is for our children to disconnect. So I’ve broken down some areas where cell phone and other electronic use can be specifically challenging.

Let’s talk about those five zones:

1. Bedrooms – Years ago, pediatricians recommended no televisions in bedrooms, and now we also include other types of electronic devices. To encourage sleep, charging phones across the room versus the nightstand will decrease the chances of checking that phone one last time. Having children charge cell phones and other devices in their parents’ room may also cut down on late-night conversations with friends.

2. At the table – If your family eats dinner together at the table, it’s great to have a rule for everyone that this is family time and to “unplug.”  This goes for parents, too!

3. Reading a Book – It’s difficult to truly get into a book if we’re going back-and-forth from reading to checking e-mail or looking at other applications on our electronic devices.  If you want to read more books or you are trying to get some family reading time in, you might allow e-readers, but keep other screens at a distance.

5. In the car – Of course screen time in a vehicle during a long trip is helpful, but limiting the amount of time would provide an opportunity for family discussions. Some of the most unguarded conversations take place when parents are chauffeuring, so it’s worth trying to limit screen time in the vehicle.  As far as car use by parents, of course texting while driving is not recommended and in many states is against the law.  If children know you do not text and drive, they will learn this is expected practice in your family.

So what now? Make sure everyone is on the same page by developing a family electronic-use plan that works for your family.

One step in my family’s plan is no cell phone use while picking our son up from school. I saw a report recently about a school that posted signs around the building asking parents to not be on their phones when picking up their children. Children often want to tell their parents about their day or show them work they did while at school, so give them your full attention. You will be glad you did.

Hopefully focusing on these five no-phone zones can help provide more quality family time. I challenge families to put their cell phones and other electronic devices down in the five no-phone zones for one week and see how it improves family communication. You can even have a little family competition – parents versus kids – and see who can successfully stay off their electronic devices in these five zones.

Consider Timing of Text Message

Reading text message

By Dawn Tedrow, Courier & Press, August 9, 2016 –

Cell phones have become a constantly updated, active journal of our lives. They are filled with conversations texted between friends, complete with emojis  and acronyms. On social media we post pictures of ourselves — selfies — and tag pictures of friends and family.

I can look at my memories page on Facebook and tell you exactly what I was doing on this day three  years ago. Yes, technology is a wonderful way to quickly share information.

One of the many ways I help kids as a Youth First social worker is calming anxious or upset students. After filling the trash can with used tissues and consuming a piece of chocolate to calm the nerves, we get down to the nitty-gritty: “What upset you so much?”

Invariably, the cell phone is whipped out to recount text messages received during class. We untangle the web of text messages. I acknowledge the student’s feelings and discuss how to handle the situation.

What surprises me is the number of students who are upset following a text from their parent. I understand most parents send a text to their son or daughter intending for them to receive it at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, I find students super glued to their cell phones and iPads continuously during the school day. So the message informing them they are grounded after school for not doing the dishes has now disrupted the rest of their school day.

Perhaps we should stop and think about how we utilize our cell phones to convey messages. Is it possible we share too much through text? Is the timing appropriate?

Consider this scenario: Tom notices his cell phone vibrating, signaling a text message. It is from his mom saying, “Your dad just lost his job.”

Tom is no longer paying attention to his algebra teacher giving instruction; he begins to breathe quickly and feel ill. He requests to use the bathroom and leaves the classroom. On the way to the bathroom, he is wondering why his dad might have lost his job and worries how the family will make it financially.

Tom attempts to call his mom, but she is not answering her phone. She went next door to talk to a friend and left her phone on the kitchen table. Tom tries a few more times and returns to class. He is unable to focus on anything in class and thoughts are whirling around in his head.

Before sending a text to your son or daughter, consider the importance of the message. Is it necessary to send the message now? Perhaps you can wait and send it later or tell your child in person after school. Could the message be upsetting? If so, it might be best to wait to speak to the student in person.

Talk to your son or daughter about how they feel about receiving messages from you. Agree on how information should be delivered and what is appropriate to share via text or social media. Opening up the lines of communication will help reduce your son or daughter’s stress, but timing and method of delivery can make a huge difference.

Sexting Exposes its Object to Harassment, Bullying, Disgrace

Texting girl

Tears. Fear. Guilt.

“Will my parents find out?” “Who else is going to see this?”

They trusted the other person. They thought they wouldn’t get caught. They thought no one else would see it. They didn’t know how to say no without being judged or viewed as “uncool.”

As a Youth First Social Worker, I hear these comments from teens about why they chose to send a sexually explicit message or photo. But by the time they reach my office, it is almost always too late.

Cellphones and the Internet have made it convenient for us to share information, pictures and more, but do adolescents understand the implications of sending inappropriate messages and pictures to others?

Sexting is defined as texting or other electronic messaging that is sexually suggestive in nature. It may sound flirty and harmless, but it can result in very serious consequences.

Sexting applies to all forms of electronic communication through social networking sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) as well as texts. It may include explicit wording or seminude or fully nude photos or videos. Sexting includes receiving, sending or forwarding content.

Whether it is a text, photo or video, digital information can last forever. The sender has no control over the choice of the receiver to copy, alter, post or pass it on.

Sexting can result in many different consequences. Once the send button is pressed, it’s out there and can take on a life of its own. Embarrassment, school discipline, trouble at home, legal problems, bullying, sexual harassment, attention from online predators and damaged relationships are all examples of what could follow.

And don’t forget that because digital information can last forever, there is always the possibility that future colleges or employers could find an old sext from an online search.

Teens, if you feel pressured to send a sexually explicit message, don’t give in. Try saying no or simply ignoring the request. State your reason: “That’s sharing way too much,” or “I don’t do that because you never know who might see it.”

There is also a helpful app called “Send This Instead.” This free app includes things one could say if they’re being pressured to send a sext message. (The humorous replies are witty and sarcastic.)

Every message, photo or video you send or post creates an impression on those who see it. Think about the impression you want to make.

Before you send, post or forward any message, try asking yourself these questions:

How would I feel if my parents, grandparents, teachers or other adults saw this?

Would I want everyone at school to see this?

Would I say or share this in person?

If the answer is no, then do not to share — as tempting as it may be. Never reply to a message from someone you don’t know, and do not post personal information such as your name, age and address.

If someone sends you a sext message or image, do not reply and do not pass it on. Sharing it with someone could mean big trouble.

You should immediately tell your parent, teacher, school social worker or counselor. They will help you deal with it the right way. Wait until you have the OK from an adult before you delete it.

And remember, just because you received a sext message does not mean you are in trouble or did anything wrong. It’s when you pass it on to someone else that it becomes a problem.