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The Downside of Texting

Updated on July 7, 2012

Text messaging has revolutionized the cell phone. Almost all now come with text messaging capabilities. Text messaging is nothing more than having the capability to send short text messages to another person’s phone. In a nut shell, basically it’s just mobile email.

Spurred by unlimited texting plans by wireless phone companies, American teenagers on average sent and received over 2,300 text messages per month, or about 80 messages a day in 2008. And the figures have since doubled and continue to climb. It’s been estimated over half of students in Europe and the US now use text messages as their primary communications method.

Although text messaging can be a useful tool, it can also be abused and even dangerous. The most obvious danger is the mounting casualty rate among those who text while driving. One poll found approximately 70% of teens admitted to texting while driving, and at times had been extremely distracted. Yet they continue the practice. However, there are some not so obvious consequences of those addicted to the miniature keyboard.

Researchers have found it to be a leading cause of anxiety, distraction, falling grades and sleep deprivation in students.

Physicians also agree there are other health issues at stake. such as repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation. Just as with musculoskeletal disorders caused by overuse of the upper extremities with computers, health care providers are discovering too much texting can cause temporary or permanent damage to thumbs. For these reasons, most schools forbid cell phone use in class. But it’s almost an impossible rule to enforce since their small size makes them easy to hide.

The meteoric rise in texting is too recent to have garnered any conclusive data on health effects, but psychologists are finding it may be affecting the way adolescents develop. Normally, teenagers leave the family nest as they mature into adulthood. The problem is teens are texting Mom every few minutes with simple questions they should easily be able to answer themselves, thus making it more difficult to break away from the apron strings. Therefore parents want their children to limit time spent texting. But ironically, many parents are also hooked, setting a bad example for their offspring.

Another major concern of the text message is security and unwanted spam the user may actually be paying to receive. Short Message Service (SMS) and Instant Messaging (IM), is not as secure as many believe.

The most common complaint about text messaging is unwanted text, or spam. Some service providers support advertising messages through contracts signed upon subscribing. So, the spam was actually authorized by the subscriber.

Once a spammer has an IM name or cell number, the user usually gets swamped with unsolicited spam. However, wireless providers are striving to implement filtering systems to curb it. It’s possible to opt out, typically through a web site, but it’s basically a hassle. Even so, some unprincipled companies sell lists of valid mobile numbers. Be sure to read any contract’s fine print to avoid becoming a victim. Depending on the contract, some incoming messages are even billable.

There are still other ways for unscrupulous spammers to operate. They may gain entry through created personal profiles that most online messaging systems offer. For IM users, most have an option to block incoming messages from anyone not on an authorized list. However, some service providers offer a "reverse charge" service allowing messages to be sent to someone’s phone who ends up paying for it.

This practice began innocently enough and was typically used for downloading telephone ring tones, wallpaper and the like. But, scammers began abusing the service, collecting money for every message sent to a reverse charge service phone. Many customers sign up as a reverse charge customer without realizing it. Basically scammers ask users to dial a number to get free offers, respond to an "urgent" message or something similar. The hook is, the number they dial will also subscribe them to a reverse charge service. The best advice is not to respond to any sent by someone the user doesn’t know.

There are many ways scammers can get someone’s personal information, such as digital phishing. This is usually initiated by an official looking e mail appearing to come from your bank or other financial institution. Most likely it will request immediate attention to some suspicious looking transaction. If a response is made, the scammers will have an account login as well as the password. With younger users this rarely poses a problem as they don’t have an account. But, they are still at risk. Just as with computer chat rooms, there are sexual predators lurking online.

Responsible adults naturally want to protect their children from this danger. This can be difficult at times since kids want to safeguard their privacy. And also like their Citizen Band and chat room predecessors, a whole new language has sprung up around the practice. Unfortunately, many parents are unable to understand texting shorthand. In order to translate text messages one needs to have access to a dictionary having all the abbreviations. One can be found online at:


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      There's as much lead in a gun as there is a pencil.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      The more that crops up out there is the more that we must be wary of. Thanks for bringing up the potential dangers.