Texting May Be Hurting Your Teenager

by Sachin Balagopalan on May 27, 2009 · Comments

I remember back when I was teenager we were required to learn how to type on a QWERTY keyboard in school and if I remember correctly the goal was to type as fast as you can using all your fingers on both hands. These days I’m amazed at the speed teenagers use the numerical keypads on their cellphones to text their friends. And it seems they are continuously texting 24/7 and this NYT piece warns on the potential downside of unlimited texting.

Spurred by the unlimited texting plans offered by carriers like AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless, 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.

The phenomenon is beginning to worry physicians and psychologists, who say it is leading to anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation.

Add social networking - Twitter, Facebook etc. - into the mix as well especially since mobile versions of these apps are available and most kids these days have smart phones with access to the internet. However it may be premature to blame it all on texting …

The rise in texting is too recent to have produced any conclusive data on health effects. But Sherry Turkle, a psychologist who is director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and who has studied texting among teenagers in the Boston area for three years, said it might be causing a shift in the way adolescents develop.

“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?’ ”

Hmmm… A double edged sword perhaps ?

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