Teens and Texting

Maybe you have seen the shoulders scrunched in together, the head down, the hand at the side of the thigh, or the trips to the restroom at the same time each day. I have and I know it means the dreaded text messaging occurring during class time has struck once again. I even had a student answer a text while giving her speech!

And now, according to a recent NY Times article, texting may have more negative effects than previously thought, and here’s a statistic for you:

American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Nielsen Company — almost 80 messages a day, more than double the average of a year earlier.

Also included in the article are the following imapcts detailing that texting can lead to:

  • anxiety,
  • distraction in school,
  • falling grades,
  • sleep deprivation, and
  • repetitive stress injury.

Dr. Martin Joffe observed students in a couple high schools and, after watching the volume of texts being sent and received,  remarked, “That’s one [text] every few minutes,” he said. “Then you hear that these kids are responding to texts late at night. That’s going to cause sleep issues in an age group that’s already plagued with sleep issues.”

Sherry Turkle at MIT noted the following:

“Among the jobs of adolescence are to separate from your parents, and to find the peace and quiet to become the person you decide you want to be,” she said. “Texting hits directly at both those jobs.”

Psychologists expect to see teenagers break free from their parents as they grow into autonomous adults, Professor Turkle went on, “but if technology makes something like staying in touch very, very easy, that’s harder to do; now you have adolescents who are texting their mothers 15 times a day, asking things like, ‘Should I get the red shoes or the blue shoes?’ ”

As for peace and quiet, she said, “if something next to you is vibrating every couple of minutes, it makes it very difficult to be in that state of mind.

“If you’re being deluged by constant communication, the pressure to answer immediately is quite high,” she added. “So if you’re in the middle of a thought, forget it.”

Psychotherapist Michael Hausauer stated that, “teenagers had a ‘terrific interest in knowing what’s going on in the lives of their peers, coupled with a terrific anxiety about being out of the loop.’ For that reason, he said, the rapid rise in texting has potential for great benefit and great harm.”

One girl in the article discussed how she developed painful cramping in her thumbs, and another girl’s parents noticed that in one month she sent over 24,000 text messages. That’s 800 a day. That’s 33 an hour!

Now features on phones include GPS notices to tell you where the person is to whom you are speaking. We can track one another on our phones. No more lying about where you are to mom or dad or to a friend…or to your boss.

Will there be a backlash for this super-connectivity? When will it be too much?

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