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NJ Parents Deal With Tech-Savvy Teens [SERIES]

This is the third in a week-long, five-part series on technology and our kids. David Matthau talks to teens, their parents a child psychologist, a sociologist and an education expert to get different perspectives on the positive and negative aspects of technology, and how it’s affecting the way our children think and behave.  Read the full series here.

Jersey parents are trying to keep their kids safe from the dangers of technology, but who really knows how youngsters are using their cell phones.

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Central Jersey mom Erica says when she was 14, she kept in touch with her friends by talking to them face to face at school, or calling their house-when their parents would usually answer.

“It was a lot different – there was no Facebook or anything like that – you would speak when you saw each other or on the family telephone – or make arrangements through each other’s parents.”

She says, “1 I keep very close tabs on my daughter – I think technology has helped me to better be able to do that…she has her own cell phone.  If I need to know where she is, I can find her- there’s locators on the cell phone.  So if she’s not where she says she is, I can find out a lot easier than my parents could have.”

Psychologist Dr. Steven Tobias isn’t so sure.

He says, “Even parents who monitor and keep tabs on kids – check their computer – the kids are much more savvy than parents are.  They know that they’re being tracked and so they certainly know their way around that…There’s a huge divide between the kids comfort and use of technology and parents comfort and use of technology.”

He says, “When I was a kid my parents knew who I was talking to and what the discussion was about…They had a good idea of what my social life was like…Now unfortunately, parents have no idea.”

Ingrid, the Central Jersey mom of a 14 year old boy, says technology is “good school-wise with the internet, but all of the social media -it’s a little scary – I think it takes time away – the interaction between friends and family members…It’s very hard to monitor exactly what he’s looking at…and make sure he’s okay…When I was a kid,  we went outside and played.  But today’s kids stay inside more, and they’re not getting together as much – because so much of it is texting – and I don’t think that’s good.”

Ingrid says she doesn’t try to track her son’s cell phone or internet movements.

“I don’t think I’d want to do that – I do trust him, and I’m sure he is where he says he’s going to be…I’m really a little old fashioned- I really don’t like all the technology – I like things more simple!”

Rutgers sociology professor Dr. Deborah Carr says, “If the parents don’t trust their kids, or if they have a problematic relationship, the technology might make it even worse.  But if they have a good relationship, technology can be a good thing because parent – child communication is much more frequent today than it was in the past…When I was in college we would wait for the phone – we’d have Sunday afternoon phone call with our parents.  Today I see teens talking to their parents 6 times a day and texting if they’re going to be late- so an upside is that parents and their kids are in touch more and also the kids have to be more accountable to their parents.”

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