- Family and Parenting
Why do teenagers text so much?
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.
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+.
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.
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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.
- This is social networking.
- People love contact.
- Text speak has its own language.
- Texting is irresistible.
- Everyone does it.
- 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?