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Why do teenagers text so much?

Updated on June 14, 2011


Isn't texting an amazing thing? Do you remember when some of the places you lived did not have a telephone? Remember making a telephone call required checking the line to see if anyone else was talking, and then waiting patiently for them to finish their conversation to start yours. It was called a party line and several of your neighbors and you shared the line. Once in a while, you would listen in and see if they were talking about anything good.

Then later waiting to see if any of your friends would call you or you would get up the courage to call one of your friends to see if they wanted to talk. The whole time you were tethered to a wired phone and you had to stay in the vicinity until you agreed to meet someplace else.

When the phone would ring, you would have to listen to it. 2 shorts 2 longs, that was the neighbor's phone. 1 long 2 shorts, that was the other neighbor. 4 shorts, that was us. All the kids in the house would run to see who could pick it up first.

To make a call in the local area you only needed 4 numbers. Out of the immediate area you needed to memorize cutesy numbers that started with OLive, BUtterfield, KLondike, Sycamore, BRoadview, KEllog, or PArker. My parents phone was OLive4-5555. This was truly a great advancement in moving from one exchange to another.

Then as a teenager, I fretted over the phone, who should I call? Worrying over what they would say or maybe getting a friend's parents, which was very uncomfortable.

How I learned to 'keyboard'
How I learned to 'keyboard'
Snap, Snap, Snap those fingers.
Snap, Snap, Snap those fingers.
IBM Selectric
IBM Selectric
Type Ball Font
Type Ball Font

Time and Tech marches on

You know, I learned to type on a "typewriter" that had keys that had to be punched. I thought those were the neatest things going. Well maybe the royals were a bit sluggish and hard to get the keys to all snap into the same font, but the Underwoods were pretty amazing.

And boy were the carriage returns fun! Snap, zoom, bing! What an amazing feeling it was to be able to put out 60 words per minute. I could write letters and do assignments and write short stories and communicate all day long. All I needed was a new ribbon and a good typing eraser. My handwriting was really bad, I mean is really bad. This was the greatest. It took me two years to learn it. Caution: Slow Typist Ahead!

I was able to get my first portable typewriter for college, it folded into a small suitcase. I used it in my dorm room and actually made quite a bit of extra money by typing reports for friends and classmates. I guess this was the original laptop.  Just when things could not get better, I ran into my first IBM Selectric. Did you know that this typewriter had different fonts? You just had to change the little ball and you could get about 12 different fonts.

I was in heaven as I worked in an office that had an IBM Selectric with an auto feature. All you had to do was backspace and then type the letter over a correction tape and then type the correct letter and then the mistake was gone. Wow!

Several years later I remember processing schedules at a large high school I was working at. This was a new experience but still it was IBM that provided the technology and I sorted punch cards for hours and then took them to the data center where they ran them through a big machine and it just typed the schedules out. Whoa!

Back at the school, a dot matrix printing terminal was hooked to the main computer and you could order changes on it and it would print the changes out. I would put in about 100 changes and they would start to print at a 300 Baud rate which I suppose it about was like a few letters per second. You could easily read the text as it came down. Quite often I would go get a cup of coffee and then come back and not miss a word of text.

That was the world of 300 bits per second. I have always stayed with the tech improvements and now I want 8 gigs of ram and 2 terabytes of storage and and a quad core running at 3+.

Cell Phone
Cell Phone

I got my Cell Phone!

So quite a few years ago, I got a cell phone to use in my service business.   No such thing as texting.   I was stuck there for quite awhile but about 3 or 4 years ago my son started to text me once in a while.  

I would get the text and think, "Cool, he's thinking about me!"  Then I started to try it out once in a while.   Then I started to catch on to my wife texting.  I would ask, "who are you texting? "  I soon found out that she was texting my son while I was talking to him, telling him, "uh uh, that's not true."  That really made me laugh.  But I just was not a texter.   

Then one time a got a text from a friend, and I discovered that it made me really happy.  Oh my God!  (or in text speak OMG). 

Isn't that weird?   A one word text from one of my friends made me smile.  You all know how I like to smile.  I would send short or one word texts back and chuckle.  I might be just entering cyberspace at a slow crawl, but it is clear to me that it provides a whole new way of looking at the world and connecting with some people I love.

I was watching the kids.

I began to observe the kids I work with and the young professionals I work with. It became clear to me that they not only are all texting quite often during the day, at times they are in the same room and are texting each other. I asked, "What the hell?" "You are in the same room as the other person."

They confided in me and told me that they were talking about a third person in the room. I thought this was hysterical. Then I began to notice that other groups of young people were texting while they were having fun. And it became obvious that they were talking to each other and about each other. I was rolling on the floor laughing (or in text speak rofl).

Then I began to research the phenomena to find out more about it. There seems to be a lot of concern about texting because some of the smart people in our society think that it is causing declining social skills, encouraging bullying and other cyber inappropriateness.

I don't think it is such a big problem myself, but I think that we should start to teach our children about social networking and how to appropriately and ethically use texting. In that training it should be made clear what the consequences of inappropriate texting are.  This could be expanded to include ethical, legal, and moral responsibilities tied to texting, instant messaging, social network posting, and emailing.

Some certainties began to emerge while observing and interacting with the young kids.

  1. This is social networking.
  2. People love contact.
  3. Text speak has its own language.
  4. Texting is irresistible.
  5. Everyone does it.
  6. It's here, get used to it, time to provide  some structure for teaching ethics of texting.

So this is why teens text so much!

They love the constant contact. I found I love that too. I don't know how they can stand 100 a day but my one or two a day I love.

It is a great way to communicate above the conversation. I was at a faculty meeting the other day and got a text message from one of the other teachers. I thought it was about the funniest thing ever. No one knew the difference.

It is a little like a poke on facebook, it just means "hello."

It is a wonderful way to encourage a friend or keep them in the loop. I have young friends that like to do stuff that I am too old or scared or tired to do. They can send me a one word text that says, "We're having a good time, but we also thought of your tired old lazy butt." I have an agreement with my text buddies that if we are having a good time, we just sent a one word text. It communicates a lot. I always smile and it makes me feel better.

So texting is a great way to communicate. Teens have shown us the way to having a fun social network.

I heard that technology is advancing so fast that some day soon, all texting will come out as voice. Now wait a minute, isn't that the original telephone idea?


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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      23 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Amazing hub. Very intuitive. Thanks for sharing this with HP.

      I remember in junior high the thrill of my family getting our first telephone--black and on a party line.

      My friends (the few I had) would somehow have that need to talk to each other after school and I never thought much about it, but we had seen each other on and off during the day, so why did I need this interaction?

      After reading this hub, I know. The feeling of being a part of something and being wanted.

      You are truly an intelligent man. And gifted writer.

      I am honored to know and follow you.

    • SteveoMc profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      @stephhicks Hahah, see, they do that across the room from each other. I was at a faculty meeting a couple of days ago, two of the young staff members were texting in the meeting. I pulled out my phone and texted both of them to put their phones away and they both started spamming me with horrible texts, it was hysterical. I was asked to stop interrupting the meeting, but I could not stop laughing.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      My teenager texts me from one row in front of me at a gym meet or play.... LOL! Funny hub.

    • SteveoMc profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      rafken Thanks for the comments. You are right, one time my brother even slept in a phone booth. LOL

    • rafken profile image


      8 years ago from The worlds my oyster

      Your hub brings back memories, but you forgot to mention the times you had to stand in the freezing cold outside a phone booth. either to await a call or for someone else to finish, so you could use it.

      I'd appreciate your comments on my hub Technology and Education Texting.

    • SteveoMc profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      ethel LOL, that does sound old fashioned.....I can't imagine the amount of work it took to keep somone's account updated by ledger. Of course, you probably could write a check several days before you put the money in the bank.

      I do enjoy it now, I am hearing my phone signaling me and loving it.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      It sounds like you enjoy it too. I worked in a Bank when I first left school and Calculators had not been invented. Bank books were made up to date after writing in huge ledgers. It makes me feel prehistoric when I tell people this lol. Also it was pre decimalisation in the UK

    • SteveoMc profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Nell, you won't believe this, but I love texting now. Sometimes I text my wife: "Where's the Remote?"

      All the young people in my life love to text. Sometimes it is a five minute conversation that takes all day long. LOL It is really fun. My contemporaries are always asking, "What's that?" when my phone lets me know I have a text. I swore I would never do it, but I had to add texting to my phone plan. Now I text and send photos and love hearing the beep beep beep that my phone does when I have a text waiting.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      8 years ago from England

      Hi, another great story! I had to teach my brother to text, he had no idea! and my son drives me mad with his constant tick tick tick on the phone, but as you say it is a great invention. I think technology does go full circle. the makers try and be to clever, and end up back where they started! lol thanks nell

    • SteveoMc profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Lady_E I am so late responding to you. But you cannot take a phone from a kid that would be abusive. LOL Thanks for your support and for reading my hub. I appreciate it.

    • Lady_E profile image


      8 years ago from London, UK

      Lol. Teens will be teens. Sometimes, when teaching, I catch some Texting under the Desk.

      Interesting Hub, I laughed at your Carriage Returns on the old Typewriter. I also learned on a Typewriter in the 80s.

      Looking at it from another point of view - If a parent wants to discipline there teen for being naughty. The best punishment would be to take the phone off the Teen for maybe half a day. lol.

      Best Wishes.

    • SteveoMc profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Hey James, thanks from reading my hub and I am glad you had a couple of laughs. I appreciate you words of encouragement.

    • SteveoMc profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Thanks cyekin, some of my best friends are 20 year olds! I love what we can learn from you. Your kind words are gratefully accepted.

    • James L profile image

      James L 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Great hub! I actually lol'd! it reminds me of joke by Robin Williams about the devolution of communication

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Stunning. Truly amazing. I never realized how much technology has progressed. Now, I'm only twenty, but it still amazes me regardless :) Thank you for writing this article! I loved it very much

    • SteveoMc profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      All the great comments are wonderful, thanks so much! I live for comments, especially the good ones. It is an interesting time, but I have been working with 13 -18 year old teens for the last 40 years, and I find that today's teens are by and large a better group than you expect. I know a lot of em and they be good!

      Feline Prophet, lol, I know, I know! And how easy it has gotten to ask for a date, no chance of running in to the 'parents' when texting.

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      8 years ago

      I learned to type on a typewriter too and it was so satisfying to go 'snap, zoom, bing!' I've never really caught up with all the changes in technology but I think texting is a great invention - especially useful when you have to communicate with people you don't want to actually talk to! :)

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      thanks for your thoughts on the subject. Well put. Brings awareness and a different perspective to the 'why????'. My sister and I were just talking about that very subject,on our road trip today.

    • Ms Chievous profile image


      8 years ago from Wv

      I think teens text because they are just literally wired these days. My boyfriends son can be on the phone at the same time he is on the computer instant messaging someone through myspace. The constant contact is crucial to them with their friends that is.. not the parents

      I never thought I would be texter. But i have one of those slide phoens that has a keypad that makes a typing sound everytime you text..very addicting

    • jorrddann profile image


      8 years ago

      great hub. It is ruining teenagers chance of having any decent social skills! What has technology created...

    • SteveoMc profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Nellieanna, I have no idea how you manage to have such detailed comments on each of my hubs. Thank you for taking the time...I love it.

      DeGreek....just look at my photo to get the real sense of "old goat" I think that the camera takes 20 years off. Yeah that's the is the camera.

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      Well now. You have successfully dated us, but what the hell! We had other and better pleasures to make life interesting than our kids. I'll think of them one of these days and tell you about them....:-)

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      Oh wow. When I was a kid, our phone # was 491-J and my best friend's was 72. Her dad was a Southern Pacific Railroad conductor and their house had a small cupula room upstairs that made the house look like a caboose. It was his retreat when he came home from a long trip, dead tired.

      All your typewriting progression was just about what I recall too, though my handwriting always got a vigorous workout too. Then the calculators. What an advance! My brother was an engineer at TI and was in on developing them. He was always trying to explain the principles.

      I was slow getting into the computer but when I did, it was in laptops for years. My first one was a Zenith Supersport in about 1988. And, oh yeah - I understand aout the cell phone texting. I got into cell phones before I used them much - still don't too much, though I have an iPhone. But - yeah - I've been drawn into some texting, but I'd NEVER text and drive.

      I realize there are many things that go on with kids texting inappropriate stuff, but I think possilbly that survival ourweighs all the other issues - theirs and possible victims'.

      Everyone should take the pledge to not text and drive.

      Anyway- back to the humor in this great hub - this is so funny and I love your conclusion!! - Yeah - the faster we go forward the sooner we seem to arrive at the starting point again! haha


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