Decoding your teen's texts

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- Do you have one of those teens who always seems to have his or her eyes on a smartphone? You are not alone.

A 2015 Pew Research Center survey shows 92 percent of teenagers go online, mostly through their mobile devices, at least once a day. Fifty-six percent say they go online several times a day and 24 percent say they're online almost constantly!

Lillie Grace Faulkner, a high school freshman in Wisconsin, says checking the phone starts and ends her day.

"It's probably the first thing I do when I wake up and the last thing I do before I go to bed," she said.

There are three rules the Faulkner family follows when using cell phones: no texting while driving, no use during dinner and using your best judgement.

"The kids need to know that what they're saying and sending is going to be out there for all to see, so I tell them to be smart and be responsible," said Julie Faulkner, mother of Lillie Grace and Grant.

There is something to be said about instilling good judgement in general," said Dr. Brian Weiland, a psychologist with Behavioral Health Clinic of Wausau, Wisconsin.

Weiland counsels teenagers and adults and says parents need to learn all they can about the cyber world, including texting and social media. Then, he says, talk to your kids.

"Don't talk so much about the appropriateness or inappropriateness. That's gonna make you seem out of touch. What you want to do is focus on concrete dangers. The long and short term effects," said Weiland.

If you're a parent, chances are you can't keep track of what your kids are saying or doing online all the time. Sometimes, even if you look at a text, you may not be able to understand what they're saying. Now, there's a way to keep an eye on what your teens are texting. Doing so may just save their life.

"As parents, in this new age of technology, we cannot keep track [enough]," said Titania Jordan, the Chief Parent Officer at www.Bark.us, a cyber watchdog organization that can track what teens are texting and their social media posts. It costs about $9 a month and will send parents an alert if it catches any signs of cyber-bullying, sexting or worse.

"I don't need to know if my son is using the word fart and talking about stinky socks, but if he's saying KMS, which means kill myself, I want to know!" said Jordan.

The Faulkner kids don't seem to mind that their parents have access to their accounts.

"It's a little intrusive, but they are our parents and they want to look out for us. You shouldn't have anything on your phone you should have to hide from your parents," said Grant Faulkner, a high school senior.

"I trust my kids and I trust them to come to me if there's something wrong or they are concerned about something that someone sends them," said Julie.

Read the original version of this article at wsaw.com.