Many schools have been in the news for negative things (televised fights, threats of violence, inappropriate relationships between teachers and students, etc.), but Madison schools just made the news for some innovation. Four Madison schools (2 middle and 2 high schools) are piloting a program that shuts down free Wi-Fi access to certain social media apps (including Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more) during school hours. Don’t worry- the students will still be able to access school email through their devices and be able to communicate with family in emergency situations. The goal of this program is to see if grades, student behavior, and school safety improve with fewer online distractions. Interesting, can I do the same while teens are in my clinic?
Oct 16-22 is National Teen Driver Safety Week, dedicated to raising awareness and seeking solutions to preventable teen deaths and injuries on the road. In the United States, teenagers drive less than all but the oldest people, but the numbers of crash deaths in 16-19 year olds is 3 times higher than the rate for those 20 years and older. One of the most common and dangerous distractions for teens behind the wheel are cell phones. For drivers under age 20 involved in fatal crashes, 19% of those distracted were distracted by the use of cell phones. According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 41.5% of teens self-report texting or emailing while driving in the past month.
The headline I saw this weekend: Sexting scandal forces high school football team to forfeit its final scheduled game. If you’re not down with slang, “sexting” is the sending or receiving of inappropriate messages or pictures, either via texting, or via other social media site like Snapchat. This headline piqued my interest; obviously I had to read more.
In the last decade or so, getting a cell phone has become a new element of coming of age. A study from the Pew Research Center in 2013 showed that 78 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds have a cell phone, and just over one third (37 percent) of adolescents own a smartphone. Cell phones can be an amazing tool for communication: they allow teens and parents to keep in touch and for teens to immediately ask for help in dangerous or uncomfortable situations. Cell phones may be a critical part of an emergency plan for a teen with particular health concerns, such as severe food allergies. Many teens maintain friendships and connections through social media, and access to a personal smartphone might mean fewer squabbles over who gets to use home computers.