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Cellphones Communications

Has Texting Replaced Talking For Teens? 373

Hugh Pickens writes "Sue Shellenbarger has an interesting essay in the WSJ where she talks about the 2,000 incoming text messages her son racks up every month — more than 60 two-way communications via text message every day — and her surprise that 2,000 monthly text messages is about average for today's teenagers. 'I have seen my son suffer no apparent ill effects (except a sore thumb now and then), and he reaps a big benefit, of easy, continuing contact with many friends,' writes Shellenbarger. 'Also, the time he spends texting replaces the hours teens used to spend on the phone; both my kids dislike talking on the phone, and say they really don't need to do so to stay in touch with friends and family.' But does texting make today's kids stupid, as Mark Bauerlein writes in his book ' The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future? 'I don't think so. It may make them annoying, when they try to text and talk to you at the same time,' writes Shellenbarger, adding, 'I have found him more engaged and easier to communicate with from afar, because he is constantly available via text message and responds with a faithfulness and speed that any mother would find reassuring.'"
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Has Texting Replaced Talking For Teens?

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  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @01:05PM (#29332367)

    The ignorance of general history, science and geography discussed in the Newsweek article aren't new things.

    In the 1950s, recent history was what has happened in the last hundred years. Nowadays, thanks to what could be terms a cultural compression -- recent history is what has happened in the last decade. The older generation(s) like to point to this and say we've gotten dumber... The truth is we've just changed our scope. What happened in the 1950s doesn't have much (if any) relevance to our day to day lives now... What happened even ten years ago now has only limited importance.

    Don't judge people based on their memory or caring for esoteric issues that might have affected life in the "distant" past (for people my age, that's anything more than about 30 years ago) -- they know just as many fungible facts as their older counterparts, it's just about a smaller period of time.

  • Re:2000!? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ingenium13 ( 162116 ) <ingenium AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 06, 2009 @01:05PM (#29332373) Homepage
    I was sending 2000 a month in high school back before I even had a phone with an actual keyboard. Now, 6-7 years later, I still average 2000-3000/month. However, I usually use less than 100 minutes per month on my phone. Thankfully I've always had an unlimited SMS plan...

    My parents each now use 500+ texts per month, whereas at first they didn't understand the appeal of it (neither is tech savvy at all) and thought it was dumb to send a text instead of just calling the person. For casual conversations in a lot of circles, texting has almost completely replaced phone calls. Actual phone calls are only useful anymore when something is time critical or the conversation would have a lot of back and forth discussion or details.
  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @01:10PM (#29332419)

    I like to see articles that spread the idea of cultural change being positive.

    "Feeling the press of complexity upon the emptiness of life, people are fearful of the thought that at any moment things might be thrust out of control. They fear change itself, since change might smash whatever invisible framework seems to hold back chaos for them now. For most Americans, all crusades are suspect, threatening. The fact that each individual sees apathy in his fellows perpetuates the common reluctance to organize for change." -- Students for Democratic Society, Port Huron Statement, June 15, 1962

    Fifty years later, this same generation now looks fearfully upon social change it once demanded... And yet I see no fault in any generation we have a memory of. Such is the nature of the human condition: We fear what we do not understand, and we're predisposed to stick with what works instead of trying something new. I can hear the voices of generations past: "Leave trying new things to the young, right? We only have so much energy... Put it towards something we know will pay off."

  • by jslater25 ( 1005503 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @01:16PM (#29332459)
    My 13 year old son manages to tie up his cell phone line by texting... Apparently when a call comes in he 'accidentally' sends it straight to voice mail because he is texting.
  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @01:36PM (#29332585)

    I'm sorry, butchery of the english language DOES make someone dumb.

    Did it ever occur to you that language is intentionally mutated in order to express things beyond pure literal meaning? For example, membership in a certain social group. It can imply social status. It can also be mutated to provide a covert means of communication in addition to identifying oneself as a member of a subculture. For example, my female friends and I often use invented sign language or body language to communicate in mixed company or in public in a covert fashion. Amongst gay men, the word "meanwhile" has a very different meaning than you intend: It's slang for saying "he's a hottie" -- while on the surface sounding very mundane and even boring to someone outside the LGBT culture.

    I think if anything, you're the idiot here -- you've failed to understand what language is used for as you rail against others for their poor use of it!

  • by spineboy ( 22918 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @01:48PM (#29332689) Journal

    I couldn't agree with you more, and there was a recent /. article about a week ago on that. Texting just serves as a distraction in important situations, and isn't much different in having someone take a break every few minutes to go chat with someone at the water fountain.

  • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @01:50PM (#29332711) Journal

    What happened even ten years ago now has only limited importance.

    With all due respect, that's a horrendously dumb statement. If you really do mean that, I think you've just perfectly illustrated one of the issues with current generations!

    Don't judge people based on their memory or caring for esoteric issues that might have affected life in the "distant" past (for people my age, that's anything more than about 30 years ago) -- they know just as many fungible facts as their older counterparts, it's just about a smaller period of time.

    That's just the thing. Humans have been around a long time, we've done a lot of things, and we've thought about a lot of things. If you limit yourself to only caring about things that happened in the last decade (or as you later expand it, the last 30 years) you're missing out on the vast majority of the human experience! Art, music, literature, philosophy. If you don't care about any of those things > 30 years old, you're both ignorant and missing out (IMHO of course).

    It's this exact same kind of myopic "ignore all but the present" viewpoint that makes people make the same mistakes over and over and over again. Moreover, to people who don't have such a myopic view, the myopes are just really uninteresting people by and by.

    I'm in my late-20s. I'm not one to claim that certain generations are better or not, because as one historiographer wrote (roughly paraphrased) each generation is less than the one before it, the youth today are merely shadows of their parents. Everybody has ALWAYS felt the next generation is going to hell, and we've done ok so far. Or take the ancient Greeks who lamented the anemic memories of students who learned reading and writing. Etc. My concerns are more along the lines that I think that the MASSES of the facebook-texting-always in contact-always on the grid-don't have to remember ANYTHING because I can look it up instantly generations (of which I am a solid member) are prone to change society in ways I personally don't like and don't think are positive. Thus is life though.

  • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @01:52PM (#29332745) Journal

    You both have a point.

    You (girlintraining) are absolutely right about slangs, argots, etc. On the other hand I have to agree to some degree with plasmacutter--using a slang/argot etc in casual conversation is one thing, the INABILITY to speak or write proper language is another one. There are many, many people out there now with a complete inability to do either.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 06, 2009 @02:01PM (#29332801)

    I think the bigger issue is the lack of focus that inherently comes with multitasking. When I order a latte at Starbucks from a 18-25 year-old they ask me the same questions literally 3 or 4 times. The same goes for being able to complete a thought or complete a few sentences strung together. Most teenagers and 20-somethings I encounter simply cannot do it without saying "ummm" and "like" over and over again. They're not stupid, they're just not paying attention and they're incoherent.

  • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @02:07PM (#29332853) Journal

    I work with a lot of < 30 year olds. I am < 30.

    The problem with the Humanity 2.0 types that you seem to be describing is that those people who are constantly bragging about multitasking, tend to be REALLY bad at it without realizing. Sometimes being able to twitter, facebook, and look up facts on wikipedia at the same time is NOT the desired or needed skillset. In my experience, the younger generations (self included) DO hate traditional hierarchies--with good cause! I quit my government job that I enjoyed because the bureaucracy was just unbearable. They currently have a HUGE attrition rate of 20-somethings who feel the same way. Yet, I've also found that those who rail the most against the hierarchies and authority frequently seem to be the ones who need the most oversight to get anything accomplished. Ironic?

    Your most telling statement:

    And they bitch about people being 10 minutes late to their shift -- and think that's more important than the fact that they're doing about twenty different jobs, holding six conversations at once on several different mediums at the same time and doing it well.

    Maybe you just THINK you're doing it well. Being late to a shift/work IS a big deal (if consistently so). It's pretty selfish to think otherwise. You're absolutely right that we are living in an "accelerated" world and that a lot of older practices are obsolete and diminishing as we speak. The inward facing solipsism you express is troubling though--ever think that there might be value in other ways of working, other people's viewpoints, beyond your preconceived notions of how the World 2.0 ought to work?

    When you say

    Our generation has an excellent strength: Balancing many often competing objectives while working in a very socially fluid environment

    I'd agree and add:

    Our generation has an horrible weakness: Actually getting things done

    You may have seen several slashdot articles relating to this (first one is pretty interesting IMHO)

    Habitual Multitaskers Do It Badly [] []

  • by AmigaHeretic ( 991368 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @02:10PM (#29332889) Journal
    When I was teenager my parents would constantly tell us not to talk on the phone so long.

    They always suggest we try "writing" to each other. Written communication is a "lost art" they would tell us.

    Now everyone is writing instead of talking... I guess my parents should be happy!
  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @02:19PM (#29332953) Homepage

    I take it you haven't seen all the reports about falling IQ scores.

    No. I can't say I have. []

  • Re:2000!? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by surelars ( 573834 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @02:35PM (#29333121)

    'round here, 100 sms/day is not unusual. Certainly chatty teenagers will do that. And so what - it takes a few seconds to send one, and it's free if you have anything like a decent plan. They keep their social network alive all the time with this; different from what I did back in the late bronze age, but then I didn't do thing like my parents did either. Sound like the US is catching up with where we've been over here for some time.

    I'm always surprised by how much fuss people make of changing habits and cultural patterns. It's just people using technology for what people have always used technology for - communicating.

  • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @02:36PM (#29333127) Journal

    Again, like I said--completely without judgement--there's no problem with communicating intelligibly with other people, and 99.9% of people manage to communicate with other people. Unless you're brain damaged or have some serious developmental / physiological issues, being able to communicate with SOMEONE usually isn't an issue.

    If I'm hiring you for a job though, I need to know that you're going to be able to (e.g.) write a coherent email that ANYBODY will understand--not just your personal social clique. If I wrote for technical support to a company, my bank, etc and got bank an email in my teenage sister's slang, I wouldn't have a clue what it all meant. Likewise if I got a reply back in old english, it would be equally unintelligible. Societies work by being mutually intelligible! Proper english--like it or not--is the standard. You can speak southern, ebonics, internet slang, whatever you want to those who understand it, but it's useless if the recipient doesn't.

  • by Stiletto ( 12066 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @02:38PM (#29333145)

    Our generation has an excellent strength: Balancing many often competing objectives while working in a very socially fluid environment.

    That's not as great a job skill as it sounds, really. When I read your status report for the week and it says "Got 50% of the way through five projects" that's not as impressive as the older guy's whose report reads "Finished and shipped that one critical project."

  • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @02:54PM (#29333291) Journal

    And there's the rub: It's not a reflection of a person's intelligence, but rather their background, if they don't have a certain linguistic skillset.

    All the reason more why opining the virtues of Internet-speak and text messaging slang is so appalling!

    I grew up in the south, in a majority-minority area. Anybody can overcome their backgrounds, and people do so every day. It's tough, and probably not fair, but just the way it is. Willful ignorance is worse, agreed.

  • by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:52PM (#29333801) Homepage

    Maybe I'm just too old for this text fad (late 20's), but I think all these texters are wasting their lives. Oh yeah! I said it!

    Why ? Because they spend more time texting than anything else, and the constant interruptions every time the phone vibrates just seems like a great way to kick ADD into overdrive. It used to be, there was a time for chatting, and a time for doing whatever it is you like or have to do. Now with these kids and their cell phones, every time is chatting time, and the result is a bunch of extremely socially-dependent people who can't do anything by themselves.

    Sure, we've had ICQ for over a decade, and it has positive and negative effects on productivity, depending on its usage, but I think there's a big difference between an IM while I'm sitting at the computer doing other computery things, versus a text message while I'm working or shopping or studying or god-knows-what teenagers do when they're not yapping about hippie crap.

    I'll be perfectly frank: I use text messages for work, and only work. I get paged when a server goes down, and I'll rarely type out a text message when coordinating with other techs, but that's about it. If I have sometime to tell someone, I can call them, and if it's too stupid or small a thing to call them about (a common excuse for texts), well really it's just too stupid, period! Do they need this information now ? Yes, No ? Shut up, then!

    Then you run into problems where people start texting during important meetings, at the movies, or any other place where outside communication is verboten. It is an unwelcome distraction and quite disrespectful, and by allowing and even encouraging today's kids to rely on texting, we are setting them up for failure, farther down the road.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @10:37PM (#29336355) Homepage

    I don't see this as a big problem. It's more of an opportunity.

    We need phones that can help prioritize text messages. Some few you need to read immediately, and in some cases you're involved in an active dialog. On the other hand, anything from Twitter probably doesn't require immediate attention. So your phone should have both distinctive ring and some way to set (preferably without looking) your current level of availability - (for example "available", "important stuff only", "emergencies only".) It would also be nice if places like theaters could send out a local signal that phones recognized as "set to emergencies only".

    To give "emergency" some teeth, charge a few dollars to send at "emergency" priority. Telcos would love this.

    So get busy, mobile app people.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling