Apr 27, 2010

Cell phones slaughter social skills

by Katie Bell

America’s youth is on a texting rampage which could end up costing them much more than their parents having to pay overage charges — it could cost them their social skills. 

Cayleb Coyne is a seventh grader who claims to average 300 texts a day, according to CNN. 

Three hundred texts a day. What could a 13-year-old boy have to say that is so earth-shatteringly important it requires 300 text messages a day? 

Michael Rich, a media expert and pediatrician, refers to himself as a “mediatrician.” Rich gives advice to parents and teens regarding teens and technology on his blog askthemediatrician.com, according to CNN.

“I don’t think we’re going to stop the tsunami,” Rich said. “Pandora’s Box is open here. The technologies are here. What we need to do is to take control of them instead of letting them control us.”

Janet Rowland is a mother who recognizes the benefit of cell phones but refuses to let one dominate her 15-year-old son’s life. 

“Cell phones are necessary for the kids that come home and leave home by themselves.  They should only be used in moderation, and parents should take the cell and look at histories periodically,” Rowland said. 

Rowland’s son, Wyatt, is the exception rather than the rule. He is among the 2 percent of teens who rarely text, according to National Public Radio (NPR). 

Liberty professor Dr. Daniel Howell purchased a cell phone for his 11-year-old daughter for a different reason. 

“We got her a cell phone because she’s homeschooled and spends time away from home (with her grandparents who live next door). I think texting has helped her stay connected with her friends from public school and church, and thus ‘helped’ her socially as a homeschooler,” Howell said. 

An average teen sends approximately 50 text messages per day. But an alarming 31 percent send over 100 a day, according to NPR. 

“My daughter now owes me $45 because she exceeded her texting limit — by a lot,” Howell said. 

The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that the frequency with which teens text has taken over every other form of interaction, including instant messaging and talking face-to-face, according to the Associated Press. 

The choice of children to increasingly rely on text message communication is creating a breeding ground for future social awkwardness.

The Pew Report found that the number of teens who say they text message daily has shot up to 54 percent from 38 percent in the past 18 months. 

In Los Angeles, Harvard-Westlake High School considered a cell phone ban last year. Nini Halkett has taught history there for 20 years and laments the spelling and writing skills that have deteriorated as texting has become more widespread. As her students are increasingly engrossed in texting, Halkett also finds them increasingly timid and awkward in person, according to National Public Radio.

“They can get up the courage to ask you for (a deadline) extension on the computer,” Halkett said, according to NPR. “But they won’t come and speak to you face-to-face about it. And that worries me, in terms of their ability − particularly once they get out in the workplace − to interact with people.”

In Pew focus groups, teens admitted they use texting to avoid confrontation or uncomfortable situations, according to NPR.

However, NPR found a different point of view.

“We heard from teens who said, ‘When I want the yes, I’ll go to the phone because my parents can hear my voice, and I can wheedle and charm them, and that’s how I’m going to get what I want, ‘ “according to National Public Radio. 

Individual children are sending hundreds of text messages a day, there are medical doctors referring to themselves as “mediatricians,” parents are paying significant overage charges and social development of children is being hindered as a result of cell phones.  This generation of children and the generations to follow will undoubtedly be tech-savvy, but the question remains, at what cost to their social development?

Contact Katie Bell at 

kebell2@liberty.edu.


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