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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Cell Phones and Teen Health

The Journal of Adolescent Health published an article this month describing a pilot study with 15 girls looking at the feasibility of using a GPS-enabled cell phone to track adolescents' whereabouts and study the health risks that teenagers face when not at home or school, and possibly to intervene. The research hopes to develop a way to intervene with teenagers at the time, and in the place, they are likely to make poor health decisions and engage in smoking, drinking, or sexual activity. The cell phones work like diaries, as well, allowing teens to document where they are, with whom and describe the decisions they are making.

Although the goal is not for parents to be able to "track" their kids, I am sure knowing where they were would give some parents security. It would also violate a teens privacy and be a little risky if the "diary" information was not erased forever after it was sent. I also wonder if the text of the health messages could be seen by parents, which would give them a clue as to which risky behaviors their kids were participating in.

All-in-all this concept makes me a little nervous, and I wonder if kids would actually open the text message that got sent in response to a diary entry about a risky situation, or make a different decision because a text message flashed at them saying, "Sara, you are 12 miles from home, is one of your friends the designated driver so you will be able to get home safely?" or "Henry, remember, that in your county, one out of four sexually active teen girls has Chlamydia - is what you are about to do worth the risk?"

Maybe it is a great idea - I would love to see their faces! It would be like carrying your mom around in your pocket.

Photo credit: joshuaone6to9
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.