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Dangers of Texting: It's Beyond Driving

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Thought it was bad to text behind the wheel? It turns out there are other dangers associated with multitask texting.

mother and daughter holding mobile phones

Dr. Cara Gardenswartz:

Date: Sunday Evening
Location: Chinese Restaurant
Time: 6 PM
Invitees: Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Brother
Activities: Eating, Conversing (Barely), and Texting

While texting during family meals doesn't cause the potential physical dangers of texting and driving, it certainly is not emotionally safe. For the most part, families have few opportunities to converse during the day -- between school, work, soccer practice, and homework, there is little downtime. For many families, weekends or evenings are opportunities to catch up, discuss the "good and the bad" about the week, share feelings, laugh, and feel their "togetherness." However, increasingly, moms, dads, and kids are tied to their cell phones. It's no longer just Mom or Dad taking a quick business call. Now it's brother and sister texting while Mom and Dad are talking or eating. It's Mom on the cell phone during carpool time not taking the opportunity to just "be" with her middle-schooler.

The other night, I witnessed a family of five at a restaurant: Mom and Dad were speaking to each other. Brother was listening to tunes on his iPhone, sister was texting, and the preschooler was under the table messing around. Mom and Dad didn't flinch. At that moment, I vowed to not become one of those families -- and preventively initiated the "no cell phone or electronic use during mealtime -- ever" rule. While occasionally there is an urgent matter (e.g., a call from a patient who is suicidal), that is the exception to the rule. Electronics are off-limits during dinner.

We want our children to share their inner and external lives with us. We want them to feel like we are available. Children who share emotional space with their parents will likely grow up and feel secure in the world. It is our job to make sure there is time for this to happen. Without setting boundaries for ourselves and for our children around the sacredness of mealtime (or other special family time), we risk raising a generation of emotionally disconnected soon-to-be adults, who engage in constant "non-engaging." Now they tune out with music and texting, but later they may look outwards with drugs and sex.

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8 comments so far | Post a comment now
messymom September 17, 2009, 1:35 PM

This is so true. I have a similar rule- that the kids can’t play games while we are together- but I’m now going to include texting!

Jennifer September 17, 2009, 1:45 PM

Amen!!!!! Love this piece and so agree. Sad commentary on society that we don’t even know how to talk to each other during family meals anymore. I finally relented and got my 12yo a cell phone. Why? I don’t know- she really doesn’t it need it for any valid safety or security reason. But she was the ONLY one in her grade who didn’t have one yet. Can u believe it?

messymom September 17, 2009, 8:49 PM

Angstmom- you rock!

darcy February 19, 2010, 10:06 PM

i don’t think parents will care if they’re a good parent as long as they trust them not to say things that are nasty and even if they do i think they shouldn’t care still if they know they are well behaved and would only say that stuff in a serious relationship, its no big deal texting at the table, i would only text while driving if my husband was in a hospital //mom to be//

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