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ABC 57 Investigates: Combating cell phone addiction with toddlers, teens

A Michiana doctor has a question for you: Does your toddler text?

She knows the answer is likely no, but she says it might not be long before your little one picks up a phone and starts texting.

“Kids are social learners,” said Dr. Margaret Jessop, Clinical Psychologist. “They watch everything you do, so the earlier we start to notice and pay attention to our own cell phone use, the earlier we can see how we’re influencing  them.”

Dr. Jessop is on a mission to educate families about the impact of cell phones on the brain with toddlers and teens.

She wrote an article titled “Does your toddler text,” which offers guidelines to help families develop healthy habits.

“The number one strategy for helping adolescents manage technology is to recognize how we’re using it and how we’re demonstrating ways to use it,” said Dr. Jessop. “The more you reflect on that within yourself, the more you can guide them in a positive direction.”

Some parents are already heading in that direction.

“It’s just good to implement it early because now my oldest is so used to it,” said Sandra Kavanagh. The mother of two teens says it’s all about setting ground rules early on.  For one, she regularly checks their text messages to make sure they’re not inappropriate. She also says that it’s important for them to follow proper grammar as well.

The biggest rule of all: phones must be in her room by 10 PM. This applies to her kid’s friends as well during play dates or sleepovers. She started these rules when her kids were in the 7th grade.

“When they come to my house, they can stay and eat my food and hang out as many weekends as they want, but they have to leave their cell phones in a bowl that we keep on our island in our kitchen,” said Kavanagh.

According to Dr. Jessop, these guidelines work well. She says it’s about being consistent and predictable.

“My number one message is this is all normal,” said Dr. Jessop. “Kids are so amazing in their ability to learn new technology. They’re going to be so much better at it than we are, so we have to embrace their ability to use technology and we need to help them use it in a safe way.”

To read Dr. Jessop’s article in full click here. In the article, she lists several tips for families when dealing with both toddlers and teens. For example, she says families should limit the amount of texting you do in front of toddlers because they model your behavior. She recommends delaying giving children cell phones with texting options for as long as possible. For teens, she recommends that families be predictable with start and stop times.

For more information on her new workbook “Hornets & Hippos,” click here

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