Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Son's iPhone Obsession Worries Reader

DEAR HARRIETTE: I found a recent segment on "60 Minutes" -- regarding modern technology and the overuse of smartphones by teenagers -- concerning. The report noted that the goal of these phones and available applications on these devices is to compel overuse by stimulating pleasure hormones in the brain to the point of addiction for many users, particularly teenager users.

My concern is just that -- my 17-year-old is obsessed with his iPhone and Snapchat. I have the hardest time getting him to focus on anything without checking his phone every two minutes. As a rising senior in high school, I am concerned that this has impacted his studies, motivation and focus on what he needs to get ahead of his college admissions, and it seems to have deterred his willingness to complete his responsibilities at home. Since I cannot monitor exactly what he is saying or who is in engaged with during all this constant tweeting and texting, I am concerned about the safety and content of these conversations as well. Any advice? -- Enlightened No. 11, Memphis, Tennessee

DEAR ENLIGHTENED NO. 11: It seems that mobile phones have replaced the video games of the previous generation, and because they are portable, their use is less controllable. Anything that has the propensity to inspire addiction can be dangerous. You have every reason to be concerned.

As tough as it will be for you to control your son’s behavior at this stage in his development, you should try. For starters, require that he limit the use of his smartphone and any other electronic devices until specific chores and homework are completed. Make an at-home policy of confiscating his phone until you're satisfied with his chores. When he does not have his phone in hand, explain to him how important it is for him to do well on all tests so that he can get into the college of his choice. Be clear that you are not punishing your son; you are protecting him from distractions that could derail his progress. Stay vigilant.

Read more in: Teens | Family & Parenting | Addiction

Friend's Gift Rings False With Teen

DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my teenage daughter’s friends gave her a very pretty ring for her birthday. She doesn’t like it, but she feels obligated to wear it and keep it. I told her she could exchange it if she is never going to wear it. She thinks it is disrespectful if she returns it. I don’t know what do to. What do you think? -- Ring Girl, Chicago

DEAR RING GIRL: Talk to your daughter about her relationship with this friend. How close are they? How often do they spend time together? If your daughter thinks she will see this friend a lot, she may want to wear the ring a couple of times and make sure that her friend sees her wearing it. After that, she can put it in her jewelry box and forget about it. If she and the girl are not close, she can return it or exchange it for something she prefers. If asked, she can thank the girl again for the ring and tell her that she replaced it with a ring that was better suited for her.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Read more in: Teens | Holidays & Celebrations | Friends & Neighbors