Is Texting Taking a Toll on Teens?
OMG! Mommy columnist Jamie Kunchick's stepchildren sent 20,000 texts in a month between the two of them.
After noticing my stepchildren were taking more than an hour to clean 20 minutes worth of after-dinner dishes the other day, I decided to check up on them.
I peeked around the corner of the kitchen and saw two teenagers fixated on their cell phones. For every dish my stepdaughter Kaitlynn put in the dishwasher, she sent a text. As my stepson Eddie made his way towards the trash can, he stopped after every step to reply to a text.
It was ridiculous.
Afraid they were going to be there all night, I managed to grab their attention by clearing my throat and noting that they would get done a lot quicker if they would just put down the phones. They looked at me like I had gone mad.
What’s the big deal, I thought? How in-depth of a conversation can you really have via text?
Curious about just how much these two were texting, I pulled their phone records. Between the two of them, they sent more than 20,000 text messages last month.
Thank God for unlimited texting plans.
Twenty thousand text messages in one month, I thought incredulously. That’s 666 text messages a day, 27 texts an hour — and that’s if they don’t sleep. How do they find the time to do anything else?
It wasn’t just after school that I found them button-pushing. It was late at night when they were supposed to be sleeping, or in the afternoon when they were supposed to be studying. The texts never stopped.
Is this good for them?
Obviously texting is a pivotal part of their lives. To send the amount of messages they do, texting has to be part of almost every moment of their day. As a parent, I assumed it was just a fun, convenient way to socialize. At 20,000 text messages a month, however, these habits aren’t just socialization — texting seems to be their only form of communication.
According to several parents I spoke to, it’s also the norm.
This made me think. Is sending a text truly meaningful interaction? Are there ways to convey emotion through texting sans a smiley face? Are today’s youth failing to acquire necessary social skills for professional and personal growth?
Don’t forget too that many teens still don’t realize everything they type into their device has the potential to be posted online. Is this form of communication teaching them how to deal with confrontations — outside of Google Buzz?
I use text messaging quite a bit. In my opinion, it’s a great tool when it comes to sending a quick, impersonal piece of information or some meaningless chatter.
It also comes in quite handy when I want to ward off confrontation over petty matters. For instance, when I have to let my husband know I just spent $250 at Gymboree on clothing for my 3-year-old daughter, I like to send him a quick text. It allows me to let him know what I've done without hearing that tense tone in his voice as he asks “Was it really necessary to purchase $60 worth of bejeweled knee-high socks?” Um, yeah!
However hypocritical, this is my point. Yes, to an extent I avoid some social interaction by turning to text messaging. As an adult, I can judge for myself when texting is appropriate because I have developed the necessary social skills and the ability to deem when it is appropriate to use them. If texting permits our youth to avoid personal interaction, whether intentional or not, how are they going to manage as adults when they are forced into the spotlight?
Eventually, they are going to have to come face-to-face with a crush, an angry boss or a friend who needs someone to listen. Will they have those skills if every previous social interaction they've ever had is by means of a keyboard?
Technology is going to get quicker, smarter, and more convenient. The instant gratification of sending a text message and receiving an immediate response is almost addicting — to kids and adults.
Texting isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We must educate our kids on the advantages and disadvantages of using electronic communication while teaching them that personal interaction is fulfilling as well as necessary.
So go ahead, encourage your kids to actually talk to someone. Maybe if you convey it in a text message they’ll actually listen.