Texting program may help at-risk teen girls
Many stories talk about how texting can create a whole host of problems for adolescents, however, a new study reveals that texting can serve to keep teens safe from peer violence as well.
The study, published online in March in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that a text message program could be an effective violence prevention tool for at-risk teen girls who often find themselves in the emergency room (ER).
Researchers surveyed 13- to 17-year-old girls who came into ERs for any medical issue during the previous year and reported experiences with peer violence and depression. The responses from the participants revealed that at-risk teen girls were very receptive to receiving text messages related to prevention of violence as an intervention measure. They also felt the program would offer helpful coping strategies and that they would be likely to share it with their friends.
According to the research, since the ER is primarily where teens with high-risk behaviors such as peer violence go for care, it’s an opportune place to start preventive measures for this behavior. However, it also has its limitations such as lack of time and resources by ER staff and limited availability of community resources along with low follow-through rates with treatment referrals. This in turn leaves this group largely underserved.
“For these high-risk populations, who have high rates of mobile phone ownership but low accessibility to traditional health care, mobile health may be a particularly promising format for delivering preventive care,” said lead study author Dr. Megan Ranney in a statement.
Researchers also uncovered how such a program should work to be effective. The texts should be personalized, use positive words and be conversational in tone. It should also be made clear that the messages are coming directly from an expert. Teen participants also wanted to be able to request additional text messages as needed along with receiving prescheduled text content.
“We know that a history of fights or violence increases girls’ long-term risk of alcohol and drug use, dating violence and depression,” said Dr. Ranney, an emergency medicine attending physician at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, R.I. “Sadly, high-risk teen girls have few options to help them prevent fights, and traditional ways of helping teens, such as parents, grandparents and physicians, may not be available or accessible.”
Dr. Ranney added, “But almost every teen girl has a cell phone and uses text messaging. If we can develop a text-message program that works for these teens, we may be able to help them make it through their teen years with fewer problems. This study is an important first step in developing such a program.”
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