Texting Takes Over

Teen TextingHow much do you text? If you’re like many teens, you send out an average of 50 texts per day, about anything from where to meet and who said what, from important updates to mundane responses.

A new study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found the number of teens who text-message daily has shot up to 54% from 38% in just the past 18 months. With this steady increase, as well as the growing number of teens who carry phones (now nearly 75%), many schools are perplexed about how to handle cell phones. Should they be banned? And if so, in school altogether or in class only? Should texting be allowed, but not calls?

Depends on who you ask. Many are concerned that the increase in texting will result in a deficit among teens for important social skills like problem solving, working things out face-to-face, and verbally communicating. According to a story on NPR, Nini Halkett, a teacher at Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles, has noticed bad spelling and writing worsening as texting becomes more widespread. As her students are increasingly immersed in texting, Halkett also finds them increasingly shy and awkward in person.

What concerns me the most about this growing texting trend? I worry that texting and doing all other things cell-phone related are undertaken to fill up empty space and time. Standing in line at a store? Why not text someone? Sitting on the bus? Text someone! In a new situation where you don’t know anyone? Flip on your phone and start texting!

You might be saying to yourself, yeah, so, what’s the problem with that? Well, the way I see it it, when you’re texting and immersed in your cell phone, you’re not fully engaged in the present. And when you’re not in the present, the way you experience life is going to be affected, and not for the better. When you’re standing in line at a store, instead of texting you could try noticing what’s going on around you, people watch, consciously think about what you’re doing. Sitting on the bus? Use the time to reflect on your day, zone out with some music, daydream, or catch up on some reading. In a new situation with people you don’t know? Push yourself outside your comfort zone and be approachable and open to meeting new people.

I know for me, it’s really hard to resist the temptation to fill every empty space and free moment with cell phone stuff: texting, checking email, checking FB, checking Tweets. And sometimes I do it because I really am crunching and need to get back to someone or connect immediately with a text. But often, I’m making the choice out of boredom, convenience, and because I’m in a new situation feeling uncomfortable.

So,here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to give myself a texting / cell phone challenge for the week. No, I’m not going to ban all cell phone texting and nonverbal communication, but I am going to limit such use of my phone to times when I truly need to check in on something or someone as opposed to just trying to fill up empty space and time. I’ll see how it goes and report here in the comments next week. Are you with me?

What are your thoughts? Can too much texting be a bad thing?


  1. Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth Said,

    April 26, 2010 @ 5:12 pm

    Goes back to the moderation message….I’ll ‘see you and raise you’ one day a week unplugged, heh.

    I’ve recently been grappling with media management trying to find footing in quicksand to refrain from being sucked into the digital deluge of hyper-competence and ‘always on’ to do-isms.

    Moreover, our TEEN induced text-free trip on Shaping Youth I wrote about in “Spring Break Sanctuary” http://j.mp/be9KXq is an indicator that youth themselves NEED a break, a breather, and an exhale. (our text-free school zone was “opt-in” and embraced fully)

    Glad you’re advocating for mindfulness Deborah, love this post! It’s an important reminder for EVERY age when the digital deluge kicks in:

    “See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…we need silence to be able to touch souls.” –Mother Teresa

    Now THAT has a poetic ring to it.

    Oh, and speaking of which, on the flip side of texting, here’s an upbeat use that made me smile:

    Still need those pauses and calm spaces to compose well. 😉

  2. dreber Said,

    April 26, 2010 @ 6:41 pm

    Thanks for your perspective, Amy…I love your Spring Break Sanctuary piece on Shaping Youth! Thanks for sharing that and the link about the texting poetry 🙂 Mindfulness is the key word, isn’t it?

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