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Book by South Jeffco mom helps parents deal with teens’ obsession with cell phone

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By The Staff

LOL. OMG! BRB. TTYL.

That means: “Laugh out loud. Oh my gosh! Be right back. Talk to you later.”

The above translation can offer help for parents trying to fathom their teens’ obsession with cell phones and texting. And when those same teens are baffled by their elders’ objections to between-course correspondence at the dinner table, they too can benefit from a little cross-generational translation.

Enter South Jeffco resident Michelle Cimino, author of “Cell Phone Etiquette: Observations from a Mom.”

The book, Cimino’s first, helps parents navigate the seemingly impenetrable world of teens and their cell phones. It covers everything from decoding text-speak to more serious issues like counseling children on making good decisions with a phone’s camera.

It all started when Cimino and her husband, Dan, finally gave in and bought a cell phone for their teenage daughter.

“We didn’t realize how important cell phones are to these kids,” Cimino said from her South Jeffco home. Their daughter racked up 6,000 text messages in the first month, Cimino said (luckily they had purchased an unlimited text-message option on their phone plan). And as time went on, more and more issues cropped up.

“As a couple, we didn’t realize we’d have to tell our daughter not to bring the phone to the dinner table,” Cimino said.

Cimino and her husband found themselves continually creating new rules for the phone, and she decided to share that with other parents. In the course of researching the book, Cimino found stories from school administrators about students texting test answers to one another.

But that pales in comparison to other issues she turned up.

Cimino urges parents to tell their children not to use phone cameras to take risqué photos of themselves and send them to friends. In January, five Pennsylvania high school students were slapped with child pornography charges after three teenage girls allegedly took nude and semi-nude photos of themselves and sent them to friends.

A December 2008 study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that 22 percent of teen girls and 18 percent of teen boys have sent nude or semi-nude photos through a phone.

“Right now they think it’s funny,” Cimino said. “They don’t know how detrimental it can be to their future. I would have never thought I would have to have that talk with my daughter.”

The book also emphasizes the need for parents to warn their kids about the dangers of talking on the phone or texting while behind the wheel.

Cimino and her husband learned quickly that parents need to set parameters for cell phone use early, a point emphasized by her research for the book.

Cimino added that kids’ addiction to cell phones might reveal a disturbing lack of in-person socialization.

“They’re at this level of dependence on their phones,” Cimino said. “I’m afraid they won’t be able to communicate in person.”

But don’t get her wrong: Cimino loves her cell phone, and she loves being able to get in touch with her daughter whenever she needs to.

“It’s huge for parents to get a hold of their kids,” Cimino said. “I’m not saying get rid of the phones. This is a pro-phone book.”

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.

“Cell Phone Etiquette: Observations from a Mom,” published by PublishAmerica, is available through Amazon.com and other online retailers.