Texting - Is it Bad for Teens?

Filed under: In The News

Has texting become hazardous for teens? Photo courtesy ydhso on Flickr.

The beginning of a recent "New York Times" piece on teens and texting reads like a Dr. Seuss book:

They do it late at night when their parents are asleep. They do it in restaurants and while crossing busy streets. They do it in the classroom with their hands behind their back. They do it so much their thumbs hurt.

Teens might be too old for Dr. Seuss, but it's a pretty accurate description of teens and their texting habits. In fact, the average American teen sends an average of 2,272 texts a month, according to the Nielsen company. I'll do the math for you -- that's 80 texts a day.

While it's too soon to know how this phenomenon is going to affect kids in the long run, experts have concerns. "That's one every few minutes," pediatrician Dr. Martin Joffe tells the New York Times. "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."

But beyond sleep issues and sore thumbs -- and yes, there are experts that worry about that too -- some think that texting keeps kids and parents in too close contact. Not a problem for parents, to be sure, but healthy teens should start stepping out on their own, while constant texting keeps them tethered to their parents.

"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," says psychologist and teen texting expert Sherry Turkle to the "New York Times." "Texting hits directly at both those jobs... 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?' "

Some people find it impossible not to answer the phone. I have a hard time not checking my email if one comes in while I'm working. Teens -- whose job it is to be in the loop -- can't not look at a text, even if it comes in during dinner, homework, family time or when they're supposed to be sleeping. Experts worry this new, instant way of staying in touch can lead to anxiety, failing grades and sleep issues.

What can you do if you think your teen's texting has crossed the line?

  • Keep the positives of texting in mind. Here are a few.
  • Teach your teens never to text and drive. Even texting and walking can be dangerous.
  • Set some boundaries: No texting in class, at the dinner table or after a certain hour at night.
  • Remind kids that what they text can and will be seen by others, and likely not just the person they sent it to.
  • Role model proper texting and cell phone behavior yourself.
  • Keep a close eye on your online bill. If teens are texting during class, after hours or in the car -- put consequences into action.

Do you think your teen texts too much? Is it having an impact on their development? Do you limit texting to a certain number per month? Share your stories with us.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.