Texting can help teens stay healthy

Like most 15-year-olds, Elliot Prince is attached to her phone. If she forgets to return a text message, her friends worry.

"If I wait a little longer, then I have friends that ask me why I didn't text them back, or why I didn't come to a certain party, or didn't hang out with them," said Prince.

"Teens text on average about a 1,000 times per month, 20 to 30 times per day," said Dr. Terrill Bravender.

This texting craze is exactly what doctors are counting on. Adolescent-medicine specialists says texting can help teens stay on top of their health.

"Using text messaging reminds teens to take their asthma medications. That has improved compliance with taking their asthma medications," said Dr. Bravender.

Two new studies presented to the /*Society of Adolescent Medicine*/ address the effectiveness of text messaging. The first looks at how teens respond to text reminders about oral contraception.

"Those girls who received the text messages did a much better job," said Dr. Bravender.

"I think for medications like that, one text every morning when you're supposed to take it probably would be helpful," said Prince.

Previous research shows being accountable to someone is the most effective way to keep the weight off. So researchers wanted to find out how teens would respond to tailored messages about meal suggestions, recipes and other reminders. The result: participants stayed motivated.

"It can be as simple as saying, 'Have you exercised today?' Just that little bit of a push -- a little bit of a reminder -- can be helpful," said Dr. Bravender.

Elliot says she likes the idea but she's concerned a parent or friends peeking at her phone.

"Depending on how many you sent, it could be a little bit annoying. That would be the only downside, having a bunch of reminders about something," said Prince.

To address concerns about privacy, researchers say they can text reminders in code such as, "Did you take out the trash?"

Dr. Bravender says studies are underway to see how text messages can help keep the lines of communication open with kids suffering from depression.



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