I have two teenagers, and I know a lot of things about these complicated young people. Here are two: They like to text so much that it’s become the best way to talk to them. And they tend to stay up late for no good reason. (I do my best to stop that, but you can’t force someone to sleep. All you can do is not provide distractions.) From those facts, I extrapolate that there will be times—probably some of them in the middle of the night—when they'll want to send a text asking for help. I’d like to think that they would always feel comfortable sending that text to me. But I was a teenager once, so I’m pretty sure there may be things that seem too awful to those inexperienced minds to confess to Mom. That's why I like the mission of Crisis Text Line: to provide teens with free, 24/7 emotional support and information via the medium they already use and trust, text. The average teen sends 3,339 text messages a month (and opens every text she gets). Texting is quiet and discreet, so kids can do it even if they're afraid of someone in the room. They can text from school, late at night, whenever and wherever they're in need, and no one in their world has to know that their thumbs are sending out a cry for help. This makes it the perfect medium for teen crisis intervention. But here's the best case for why Crisis Text Line is a good idea: It didn't come about because someone dreamed it up. It exists because teenagers asked for it. Nancy Lublin is CEO of DoSomething.org, an organization that helps young people take action on causes they care about. That outlet discovered that the best way to get messages out to teens was via text. Lublin started the project that became Crisis Text Line because the staff at DoSomething.org started getting shocking cries for help from the teens they were communicating with. One of those texts read,
“He won’t stop raping me. He told me not to tell anyone. Are you there?”
Lublin could do little but refer that teen to a crisis center. But she decided she had to do something to create a texting help line for teens that was empowered to provide assistance. And she did. So make sure the teens you know are aware that free help is available via text 24/7. They just text “LISTEN” TO 741-741. A great side benefit is that this forum also provides terrific data on when, where and to whom bad things are happening. If the Crisis Text Line sees a spike in texts after specific events or at certain times of day, this tells them that schools or cities need to provide help in those places and at those times. Maybe, Lublin says, that will make it possible to stop kids from being bullied, from cutting themselves or from being raped. You can watch her explain all this herself in the video below.
Christina Tynan-Wood has been covering technology since the dawn of the Internet and currently writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle. You can find more advice about buying and using technology at GeekGirlfriends.com.