Text Messaging Craze
Before cell phones were small enough to fit into a coat pocket, students communicated across the room by passing a note. Now the latest craze, text messaging, can be done on the sly and teens are communicating instantly with friends.
"Adults use their Blackberrys to communicate and teens are using their cell phones," said Dr. John Sargent, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Ben Taub General Hospital. "They allow you to be connected but also disconnected at the same time, because you don't have to actually talk to the person.".
Parents considering buying their teen a cell phone should look at both the pros and cons of this hot holiday item. While having a cell phone with the text messaging feature is a great way for teens to stay in touch with their friends and family, it can also become a distraction in the classroom or on the road.
On the plus side, Sargent says that text messaging can bring introverted teens out of their shell, boost their confidence and help them make friends.
But for some teens, texting can become a habit that affects their school work, their ability to sleep at night and how they interact with their friends face-to-face.
"It is immediately reinforcing when you send and receive text messages so teens can lose track of how a number of they are sending and how much time is being spent texting," Sargent said. "Because there are no immediate consequences of sending a ton of text messages, you just keep on doing it and forget that it costs money.".
While teens may not see a problem with the amount of text messages they send and receive, parents may when they have to foot the bill.
"Instead of just writing the check and yelling at your child; parents should work out a payment or chore schedule to help them learn that they have to be accountable for their actions," Sargent said.
Texters have also developed a new lingo to quickly text on the go. The abbreviated spellings may save on character space, but when these misspellings turn up on English papers there may be a problem.
"The ability to write successfully is probably the most important skill for kids to learn in relationship to job success," Sargent said. "If texting inhibits them from learning how to write articulately, then it could be a real problem.".
Parents should monitor their child's phone usage at any age, but particularly if they are younger and irresponsible. If your child abuses phone privileges, Sargent suggests taking the phone away and then gradually giving it back or for older teens only allowing them to have it while in the car for emergencies.