By Annie Finnigan
Why we worry: Chatting nonstop on computers and cell phones, our kids are interacting less often with friends and family, and losing the ability to sustain meaningful relationships.
Relax. The reality is: e-mailing, TMing, and IMing aren't making teens antisocial -- just the opposite, experts tell me. "These technologies build relationships," says communications professor Jeffrey Cole, PhD, director of the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. "Since 2000 we've seen that Internet users are spending the same amount of time with their families and more with friends." Sherry Turkle, PhD, a sociologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was even more comforting. "Cell phone culture has tethered kids and parents so they're talking more than ever," she says.
Still, get smart by: encouraging your kids to call only when it's urgent -- and save the conversation for when they're face-to-face. "Adolescents are continually checking in with friends and family, sharing feelings before they have a chance to reflect on them," says Turkle. "For teens to create a personal identity, they need to focus inward." Flattered as I am when Gracie speed-dials me for fashion advice, I'm going to start backing off, letting her decide which platform shoes are the coolest.