According to research reported March 2012 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 77 percent of teens age 12 to 17 have cell phones. Younger teens -- those age 12 to 13 -- are less likely to have a cell phone, however. Although there are benefits for parents when teens have cell phones, there are also potential concerns, and parents should monitor teen's cell phone usage.
Cell phones and related technologies increase the potential for teens to be victimized or to behave inappropriately, according to the City of Milwaukee police department. Some cell phones combine both communication and Internet technology, so a teen can be active on social websites as well as texting or talking. Sexual predators can obtain considerable personal information from social networking sites, and many teens don't recognize the dangers of posting personal information and pictures that a predator may use to manipulate them.
The anonymity of electronic media may encourage some teens to behave in ways that they might not in person, such as posting racial or sexual slurs, harassing a classmate or cyber-bullying. These activities are not only destructive and cruel, they may be criminal according to the Milwaukee police. Some social networks will delete the account of an individual who is behaving in ways that might be illegal, but parental monitoring can help prevent teens from hurting other people or using poor judgment.
Inappropriate Language and Content
Internet content is not usually censored for language or subject matter. Web content can include pornography, overt sexual content and pictures, or graphic, disturbing images, as well as minimize the risks of using alcohol or illegal drugs. Teens don't have the maturity to sort out potentially inappropriate material, especially if the presentation is deliberately manipulative or lacks balance. Teens may share sexually explicit messages or images that in some cases might be illegal. Colleges and potential employers often review social media sites and might not be impressed by inappropriate language, email names or images.
Excessive cell phone use at night can promote sleep deprivation and cause anxiety and other emotional problems, according to psychologist Suzanne Phillips, writer for the Public Broadcasting Corporation, especially if teens sleep with their phones in order to be “on call” for their friends. Some teens demand instant responses to their messages, even in the middle of the night. Phillips states that texting has a high potential for addiction because of the immediate gratification aspect of a text response. Phillips recommends parents not only monitor cell phone use but also insist that the phone be turned off after a certain hour.
Other Behavior Issues
If you have concerns about your teen's behavior unrelated to their cell phone use, it may be even more important to monitor them, according to the Milwaukee Police. Teens who hide their Internet profiles, become angry or refuse to allow a parent to see a profile, or are dishonest about their cell phone activities may be engaging in risky behavior. When teens are already making poor choices, such as drinking, gang involvement, or skipping school, they may be making equally poor choices in texting or social media use with their phones.