Safe Text

What is the #1 thing people do with their cell phones? – ­ Check the time.
What is the #2 thing people do with their cell phones? – The answer follows…

Human beings are social creatures by nature. We like to communicate and we like to have lots of friends. We generally do not like to be alone. We are driven to be social. This drive has led to the development of several ways to communicate, from sending a message in a bottle (not a great mode of communication for land­locked areas), to carrier pigeons to the Pony Express.    The telephone was an amazing breakthrough for communication, as was the internet. No form of communication in history, however, has been adapted and grown as rapidly as text messaging.

In the last three years the text messaging explosion in the US makes Mount Vesuvius look like a small burp. According to Cell Signs, in December of 2006 Americans sent 18 billion text messages per month and by June 2008 that number was over 75 billion.    In the report, they added that a typical wireless subscriber in the US sends or receives 357 text messages per month.

I look at these numbers and I wonder how any of us could have possibly survived without text messages. Basically, according to these numbers, the average American is involved in texting over 10 times per day. We all do not text, however.

I am sure you’ve heard of kids who have run their parents’ phone bills up to well over $1,000 in a month because of texting. A quick google search on teen texting generated over 1.3 million hits. There were positive pages, including a story of a 13 year old who texted “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in 15 seconds and was crowned the “LG National Texting Champion”. She pocketed a cool $25,000 for that.

There were negative pages, such as reports of fatal car accidents caused from the distraction of a driver texting. There were reports of individual teens sending as much as 15,000 text messages per month, mostly with coded messages such as “P911 POOF” (Translation: Parent alert. I have to go).

Think about this; if a teen sends 10,000 texts in a 30 day month, he or she is averaging one sent text message every 4.32 minutes. Not waking minutes, but every minute of every day. If we could hook their thumbs up to a generator, we could probably power a small town.

You can understand why a teenager loves to text so much. Text messages are private; they are billed in lump sums and therefore the exact time and dates of messaging, as well as the recipients are not available. This gives teens more distance or separation from parents (if the teen is paying enough attention to erase the messages). Text messaging is also attractive to teens because it can be done in group formats; a normal developmental drive for a teen is to want to be part of a group.

This is all new technology. It is not known what ramifications all of this texting will have, if any. Certainly there can be cyber bullying and sex crimes through this just as there is through other media (I have written some on this in past article in the News and Viewsarchives). Also,thisformofcommunicationeliminatesnon­verbalpartsof communication and leaves out the relatedness that comes through an actual conversation. Will this be a problem for long­term social and interpersonal development? It is possible. Kids text while in school in class and they can do it without looking at their phone.    At home, what do you think a teen would rather do; homework or text? I would not be surprised, therefore, if texting affecting their learning and grades in a negative way.

I also wonder about the use of abbreviated language, clipped sentences and short bursts of communication. It just seems that this may affect true language development and social development in a negative way and may function to worsen a teen’s attention span, especially for a teen who already struggles with attention problems.

New discoveries often bring new problems. They certainly also have their place. What would human beings be if they didn’t have the ability to branch out, create, and try new things? Let’s hope this text wave brings more benefits than problems. Like most good things in life, it is probably a resource best used with care and moderation. May you all practice safe text.

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