Sunday, November 6, 2011

Family Medicine: Teens, Times and Texting

"How many  texts are you doing each month?" I asked my teenage patient who was sitting on the exam table texting during his annual teenage health visit.  "Ten thousand", he responded.

Later in the same visit, I gave my usual micro-lecturette on  health risks for teens:  "There are six things that can kill teens or make them wish they were dead- alcohol, drugs, cars, sex, violence and texting."  He flinched at the last one, but wasn't visibly concerned about the first five.

Parents and grandparents now routinely send text messages to teens, many alleging that the ringing or buzzing phone is never answered by the teen.  When I was a teen, I wouldn't dare ignore the calls from my parents on my cell phone.  In fact, cell phones weren't invented.  In fact, our phone had a dial.  OK, caller ID, call forwarding, answering machines and satellite/cable didn't exist either.

In those times, we barely used the telephone, unless we had a girlfriend (in my specific situation).  The girls never called the boys- gentlemanly behavior dictated that decorum.  We may seem way behind the times, but we made it.

When I saw the family doctor, they never mentioned alcohol, drugs, cars, sex or violence- all of which had been invented.  That wasn't part of their training.  Prevention was up to the parents, the churches and the schools- in that order.  Hell was one of the prevention strategies frequently invoked as a deterrent to outrageous teen behaviors.  Marriage was another prevention strategy that was invoked for mis-adventures of teenage sexuality.  Times have changed.  Teens have changed.

OK, I never saw my family doctor for prevention of anything after I was six years old.  Sports physicals were done enmasse lined up for a six second heart listen and six second hernia check by one of the GP's who had a son on the team.  It was free.  We had no prevention guidelines for sports, health or life that physicians used.  There was no money for medical care let alone prevention.  DUH! There was no health insurance, only hospitalization insurance.  Life was not a medical adventure, it was a physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual one.

Teens and Times have changed along with the lifestyles (a relatively new word) of Americans.  I was well suited to a less electronic teen lifestyle with minimal invasion by the medical profession.  Now, in the age of health insurance, I am an invasive Family Physician who speaks comfortably of alcohol, drugs, cars, sex, violence and texting to teens and their parents every day.  I have a superphone, use social media and even text someone once or twice a month.


  1. You are ahead of me! I have the cheap free phone and don't know how to text on it.

    I'm counting on my kid to teach me how to use an ipad or whatever is the hot new tech thing we can't live without when she's a teen.

    Also? The second she thinks she can ignore me when I pay the bill? Buy-bye phone.

    Good for you for bringing it up. Texting and driving is so dangerous.


  2. Oh admit it. You know you climbed up on the pole, picked up the receiver and asked Sarah to put you through to Mr Whipple. ;) Remember Green Acres and Eddie Albert had to climb the telephone pole to place a call? :)

    I miss how easy the phone bills were to read. And how there were no crazy expensive taxes. Just a simple bill. Of course I do love call waiting and some other features. :) And it is weird to think that back then ...if you were on the phone ..people would get a busy signal and not get through ..for hours if you had a woman or girl in the house. :)

    Oh Gosh - I cannot stand the thought of texting and driving and it is the most stupid and selfish behavior.

    I never text. Conversely ..even my 10 year old granddaughter does. I think too young for a cell phone but I do like that she cam always be in touch with parents and vice- versa. i worry about the whole radiation risk for children tho.

    It's good that you incorporate texting into the exam time. Do all docs now?