Do u text 2 much' Teens losing face-to-face communication skills
By Kellie B. Gormly
Published: Monday, Aug. 24, 2009,
Stephanie Harbaugh was shocked when she saw July's cell phone statement for her kids' phones.
Her older son, Brandon, 15, had sent and received more than 7,000 text messages. Her older daughter, Alainah, 11, had swapped more than 3,000 of the electronic bits. Yet Harbaugh's kids have obeyed strict household rules about cell phones: absolutely no texting is allowed while a parent is talking to them, the table is a phone-free zone during meals, and no texting is allowed after 10 p.m. on a school night. If the kids break the rules, they lose the phone for at least a day.
Texting can be great and convenient, Harbaugh says, but within limits.
"I kind of feel torn," says Harbaugh, 37, of Greensburg.
In the digital age of cell phones, texting among youths has not only become a frenzy; it is a teenager's preferred method of communication, says Jennifer Austin Leigh, a nationally known teen expert who goes by "Dr. Jenn." Many young people would rather exchange text messages than have a conversation the old-fashioned way: chatting on the phone, or even talking in person. Many teens seldom answer their cell phones and let incoming calls go to voicemail, in order to train their callers to text instead, Leigh says.
Add the texting obsession to the Facebook craze and other online social networking, along with e-mail, and we have an relationship-stunted generation, she says.
"Kids are now typing as opposed to speaking," says Leigh, who is a consultant, speaker and author of books including "Laid or Loved?" "Our kids are growing up in a world where the technology used to connect us is actually disconnecting us. ... It's become an addiction."
Texting also can be responsible for sleep deprivation, a common problem in teens, experts say. With this 24-hour access to their friends, teens can be up until the wee hours texting.
Through texting, teens will swap details of their day, cancel plans, break up, have lengthy and intimate conversations, and even have arguments and engage in verbal abuse.
As a result of over-dependence on texting, Leigh says, teens often misread facial expressions. "You've got a generation that is truly ... unlearning what little they do know about how to connect with other people," Leigh says. She runs two Web sites, www.parentingteengirls.com and www.honorthegirl.me. "Real human relationships are now suffering."
Hope Bishop's daughter, Courtney, 11, is surrounded by friends who have cell phones, many for several years already. But Bishop, of Ford City, says she won't give Courtney a cell phone until she is in high school, probably. Bishop says she wants her daughter to communicate with others the old-fashioned way, and not become dependent on texting. Over-texting, when a real conversation is called for, is an irritating habit even among adults, she says.
"It's like they don't want to talk to people," says Bishop, 48. "To me, I think we're a society that's losing contact with people. ... I just don't think that cell phones need to be as important as they are."
Just like adults, teens often feel hurt when they receive a text message that should have been a phone call or, better yet, an in-person conversation -- even though they might be guilty of having done the same thing to someone else. Text messaging can seem lazy, rude and impersonal, and when a child is constantly texting, it can be very annoying to parents, who feel their communication with their kids is slipping.
"I do not have one parent who hasn't complained about it," Leigh says.
Donna Stephenson, who coaches the girls' field hockey team at Pine-Richland High School, says that she values texting for the convenience, like when she tells her students that practice time has changed. Texting also is a convenient way for parents and teens to keep in touch without being too intrusive, the way constant phone calls would be, she says. Yet texting, for all its usefulness, can become unproductive when overused, says Stephenson, who recently took a road trip with her out-of-state niece. While Stephenson was hoping to use the car ride to really connect, her niece spent a lot of time texting her friends back at home.
Too much texting can inhibit family relationships, says Stephenson, who has three young sons.
"Parents are losing that opportunity to say, 'How's your day, and what's going on?'" says Stephenson, 44, of Pine. "It seems like their lives are continually interrupted by incoming messages."
Consider these tips for reining in the texting habit:
• Consider a phone plan that limits the amount of text messages that can be sent and received, or that blocks texting during certain hours.
• Have a heart-to-heart conversation with your teen about "sexting," which is the dangerous practice of sending sexually explicit messages or photos via cell phone. Don't talk at your child; listen, and ask questions like, "I've been reading about sexting. Have you ever been tempted to do that?"
• Set phone-free zones and times, like the dining room during a family dinner. Put the cell phones away, and focus on your family face-to-face. Reclaim your right to family time, free of texting.
• Set a curfew for texting and phone use on school nights.
• Too much teen texting can be a major annoyance for parents, but remember that it's usually not life-threatening. Choose your battles.
Source: Jennifer Austin Leigh, a consultant, author, speaker and teen expert
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Truck driver blames sneeze for crash in Washington County
- Kovacevic: Keeping faith in Letang is simple
- Steelers rookie RB Bell gets respect from teammates, foes alike
- Fleury, Crosby lead Penguins to victory over Sharks at Consol
- Penguins notebook: Injury keeps Malkin out against Sharks
- Penn State notebook: Ferguson to explore transfer options
- Steelers notebook: Woodley practices but unsure where he’ll play
- Steelers lineman Adams gets 2nd chance to start
- South Carolina fugitive captured in Pittsburgh
- Third-period surge carries Thomas Jefferson past Freeport
- Dark Braddock setting of ‘Out of the Furnace’ reflects a dying way of life