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Compulsive communication: What parents need to know

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Cell phones have taken over many teens' lives. I've learned while talking to young people, educators, parents and physicians that we are in a state of emergency. Now is the time for all of us, especially parents, to step up and protect our young people before it is too late. Predators, bullying, sexting, and phone addiction are just some of what experts say you may be exposing your children to when you allow them to use cell phones without supervision. The teens I talked to admit their phones are completely taking over their lives. Doctors say it's serious and has to stop.

"Parents need to be parents and not popular. Sometimes you have to say no," explained Developmental- Behavioral Pediatrician, Dr. Doris Greenberg.

She also said that doesn't happen often enough. It does in Pat Bowers' home. She's a foster mother of four teenage boys, who believes it is her duty to make sure those phones aren't getting her children into trouble.

"You have to be a step ahead of them. If you don't give me the pass code, I will cut the phone off," said Pat Bowers.

Bowers is like a detective, checking everything, Facebook and Twitter pages, text messages, photos and email.

"Every now and then, I will say hand me the phone then I start doing my investigation," added Bowers.

Through the years, she has found racy text messages and pictures. She took their phones, but she didn't stop there.

"I made them give me the phone number and I called to let the parents know what was going on. I mean the girl took off her top part. The photos that they send through the phone are so disturbing. I have called their mothers and told them I could describe the bedrooms to them to let them know I am not just calling to make allegations."

Bowers isn't alone in her efforts to curb the compulsive communication. St. Andrews student Lauren McCarthy says she got in trouble and her parents took away her phone, too. She's just getting it back.

"It is actually really good punishment. It's teaching me that I really shouldn't be connected to my phone as much as I am," said McCarthy.

But, some say parents like Bowers are invading her sons' privacy, while many others, including Dr. Greenberg, say there should be no privacy for young people living in your home.

"I think parents have to stop putting their heads in the sand. When their children are plugged into these devices they need to monitor them. They have to be aware of who their friends are who they are in contact with," explained Dr. Greenberg.

"If you love your children, protect them. This is a cell phone technology age, but technology can hurt them too," added Bowers.

Bowers has also learned most of the texting language. From time to time, she gets a transcript of all the messages from the phone provider. She takes parenting very seriously. She and Dr. Greenberg say if more parents took a more active role in their children's lives, they could prevent many problems from happening.

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