By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Most adolescents see cell phones as a right. Parents understand that cell phones are a means of communication among adolescents. Therefore, both parents and teens agree that a cell phone makes sense.

Unfortunately, cell phones do not come with their own set of rules. Parents and their teens need to negotiate those.

One of the rules that needs to be negotiated is the one covering the practice of sexting. Delaware does not have a specific law related to sexting. Therefore, federal law applies. Under federal law it is illegal to transmit, create or possess a sexually explicit depiction of a minor. Allowing such behavior to occur can result in parents also being held legally responsible.

Surveys have shown that 24 percent of high school teens are involved in nude sexting behavior. For girls aged 13 to 16, 11 percent of them have been involved with sending or receiving images. Therefore, it is not a rare thing.

In addition, 17 percent of recipients share the images with others. Of that group more than half share the images with multiple people.

What this means is that cell phone purchases for teens requires parents to talk about proper use. Unfortunately, many parents feel uncomfortable discussing these kinds of topics with their children.

There is no evidence that having such a conversation increases the behavior. However, having no conversation at all implies that there are no rules or boundaries.

A simple rule is to make sure that cell phones are out of the bedroom at bedtime. This is one of the prime time frames for sexting behaviors.

A second rule is that parents need to negotiate the right to check what is being done on their child’s cell phone without prior notice.

A question that parents can ask is whether the child knows that some older people do this kind of thing. The sound adolescent will likely give a response of something like “That’s stupid.” of “Why would someone do that?” It is likely that such behavior is not part of their plan.

If the response is that they know that already, then further inquiry should be done. The reason is simple. Peer pressure is as strong about this kind of thing as it is about other things. If they know their peers are doing it already, they might feel pressured to follow suit.

Parenting is never easy. Sometimes the topics that need to be addressed are not that easy. Unfortunately, those kinds of topics often create the biggest problems. Cell phones should be a help and not a hindrance.

COVID update- The overall number of new cases both nationally and locally remains stable. Immunization figures for the state of Delaware are a little better than the national average.

We have now had a long enough period to evaluate the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine on hospitalizations. The numbers are not surprising. We know that the vaccines are 95 percent effective. Therefore, the expectation is that only five percent of vaccinated individuals would be expected to get the infection.

In May over 853,000 patients were hospitalized for COVID-19 infections. Less than 1200 of them (0.1 percent) were fully vaccinated. All the rest were unvaccinated. There were 18,000 deaths. Of those 150 (0.8 percent) were in fully vaccinated individuals.

We see the same thing from individual medical centers. Over 95 percent of the COVID-19 patients in the ICU at the Mayo Clinic are unvaccinated. Sanford Health covers 44 medical centers in Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas. Over 95 percent of their hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. Cleveland Medical Center reports that over 95 percent of their hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. Health Partners System in Minnesota notes that over 95 percent of their COVID-19 hospitalized patients are unvaccinated.

People who are now getting the infections are those who remain susceptible. That group of individuals are those who have not yet received the vaccine. That is really not a surprise.