Effects of Text Messaging Among Teens
- Pages: 14
- Word count: 3468
- Category: Message
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How often do/did you use your cellphone/smartphone as a teen? When I was a teen, I received my first cellphone at the age of 15. I thought personally this was the best invention ever created as a young teen and with that, I soon found out that I just entered a whole new social world with these new technology devices. I entered a generation that would be called the Tech-Generation filled with cellphones/smartphones and social media. I quickly discovered the texting function with my cellphone and started to send texts daily to my friends. My cellphone became a necessity for me; if I did not have my cellphone, I would freak out. In addition, I started to replace phone calls and in-person socialization with texting. Texting made it possible to communicate to my friends and family whenever possible. It almost seemed impossible to not get a hold of them. I was granted with a whole new method of communication. I choose to text because a simple text would do the trick and I could keep doing the activities I was doing while sending the message.
Along with the convenience of texting, I was also more comfortable speaking my mind through these messages. Now that I look back, I wonder if texting had an effect on the way I socialized as a teen. Did I gain or lose in-person social skills? This is a question I ask myself now as a young adult in college where interpersonal communication is essential throughout my daily activities. I feel that teens are becoming too comfortable with texting and not practicing in-person social skills. With this being said, the effects of text messaging is obviously significant for these teenagers, who are the main users of texting and considered the tech gurus of this era. Is it eliminating face-to-face interactions? Does it promote face-to-face interactions? Is text messaging eliminating in-person social skills for these teens? These are some questions that I am concerned about and will explore.
In today’s world, socially interactive technologies have become a necessity in our everyday lives, especially for teenagers. Socially interactive technologies (SIT’s) are described by modern technology as devices used to socialize with each other, such as ellphones/smartphones and social networking sites. Amanda Lenhart, a well-known researcher in this field, shares this interesting fact, “Teenagers in the United States spend an estimated 7 hours per day using cell phones and computers and are arguably the most exposed to and the most equipped to use these new SIT’s.” (Lenhart, 47). Lenhart directs the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s research on teens, children and families. Her research interests include network communication tools like mobile phones, social networks, blogging and micro blogging. Her focus is on research among the youth. It would be easy to state that teenagers are the common heavy users in using these new socially interactive technologies. The common use of these new SIT’s among teenagers is using these devices to communicate and socialize with their friends, family and romantic partners.
I believe the use of these SIT’s among teens is having an effect on the way teens are learning to socialize because of the above-mentioned 7 hours Lenhart tells us. More specifically, I believe teenagers are replacing face-to-face interactions with the text messaging function enabled by cellphones/smartphones. Text messaging is providing a safety net for teenagers to communicate to each other. Safety net meaning teenagers do not have to worry about any consequences or emotions as they would if they were involved in a real-time face-to-face interaction. What this means is teenagers now can communicate what they want to say without the added pressures and emotions of being face-to-face to each other. This in effect can lead to a negative effect on how teenagers develop in-person social skills, which are essential for these teen to have as future adults.
Is this safety net corrupting teenager’s ability to have real time face-to-face conversations? This in-person social skill of being able to improvise thoughts and words is a skill very important for teens to develop. Given that communication plays a central role in personal relationships and that relationships are assessed by the communication skills of others, the downfall of the ability to effectively communicate may decrease successful relational development in young adults. This can jeopardize many of life areas such as family relationships, socialization, school performance, and employment. As teens mature and continue their lives as young adults, they will be faced with situations that call for this skill, such as a job interview where you are asked on the spot questions with no time to re-think and erase what you say. Another situation would be simply everyday communication that involves reading body language and expressing emotions. Text messaging is eliminating face-to-face interactions and important in-person social skills. I will be exploring the ways these new socially interactive technologies and how this safety net is affecting teenagers’ social lives as it plays a major role in their ability to form and maintain relationships, and socialize as a future adult.
One of the most popular SIT’s being used among teenagers today is the cellphone/smartphone and it has had a significant impact on the way the teens communicate throughout their daily lives. In this generation, it has evolved that owning a cell phone/smartphone has turned into a social norm for teenagers and has added a little bit of social pressure to teens to own and use one. If you do not own a cell phone, you are missing out on this new adventurous social life of the 21st century. Cell phones have been engineered over the past years to accommodate the demand of texting, such as offering a full 1QWERTY keyboard (QWERTY is the acronym that commonly describes today’s standard keyboard layout on English-language computers), and many cell phone carriers offer plans that contain unlimited texting. An example of one of this cellphones/smartphone would be the ever popular IPhone, which holds functions that enables the users to be able to call/text/email and even use special apps that give direct access to the internet or a social networking site.
According to Lenhart, 77% of adults and 71% of teenagers owned a cell phone and 38% of those teenagers (12-17 years old) used their phones to text daily (30). A year later, the same survey was administered with results increasing to 54% who text daily (30). The same survey was again administered from the Pew Research Center by Lenhart in 2012 with the results increasing to 84% of Americans ages 12 and up owning a cell phone and 63% of teenagers saying they exchange text messages daily (2).
The problem is texting is giving teenagers the option to avoid face-to-face interactions and causing teens to lose important social skills. Fraser J.M. Reid, (Associate Head at the Centre for Thinking and Language, School of Psychology, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK), and Donna J. Reid, (PhD Student, at the Centre for Thinking and Language, School of Psychology, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK) are authors of the article, “Text or Talk? Social Anxiety, Loneliness, and Divergent Preferences for Cell Phone Use”, and they give their perspective on the importance of face-to-face interactions this way: ”Although the sheer number of social contacts matters to young people, it is the quality of these contacts—particularly the presence of a truly intimate friend or romantic partner—that is important to young and old alike.”
The quality that Reid and Reid speak of is the effects of an in-person conversation. An in-person conversation that alerts the whole mind and body and not just the movements of the fingers on the keyboard. Reid and Reid explain that just sending a text message to people is not as important or comforting to a person than actually hearing the voice or seeing the face of that true friend, romantic partner or family member. It is like the way a baby feels comforted when he/she hears the parent’s voice. That is one of the things teens are losing through texting. I believe interpersonal communication is an important factor in establishing a healthy relationship with friends, romantic partners and family.
The short messaging service (SMS), more commonly known as “texting”, is the cellular phone version of IM-ing and also results in virtually instant messages between the sender and receiver. Cell phones/smartphones have become such an integral part of daily life for teenagers that 15-18 year olds are reported in 2012 to spend an average of 1 hour and 51 minutes each day sending text messages. (Lenhart, 47) Text messaging has increased in popularity among teens as a fast and easy way to communicate to each other. This form of communication has eliminated phone calls, the casual email and face-to-face socializing. It has become the preferred method over all other communication options for teens. One reason being is you can send a text message without devoting time to the actual conversation. These texting privileges also allow you to be able to multi-task while having a conversation, or even hold 5 conversations at once through the use of your fingers.
Another benefit of text messaging is you have time to think before you give a reply back to the person you are having a conversation with; this acts like a think-before-you-speak safety net, which is one of the major reasons texting has become so common among users. Tamyra Pierce, writer of the article, “Social anxiety and technology: Face-to-face communication versus technological communication among teens”, studied socially interactive technologies (SITs), such as social networking sites, cellphones/texting and instant messaging. The purpose of her article was to give knowledge on technology used among teens and also if social anxiety plays a role on the use of these SITs. Pierce concluded that today’s modern technology is replacing face-to-face interactions and also relieving social anxiety among these adolescents. I agree with this because I experienced the added comfort texting delivers when I was a teen and even now as a young adult. This added comfort relieves teens from the normal pressure of real time face-to-face interactions, such as nervousness or being tongue tied.
Pierce gives an explanation on how exactly text messaging adds comfort to users in this report: “Several benefits of these socially interactive technologies include the ability to control how the user interacts with others and the length of the conversation. In addition, online communication and text messaging gives the user added control over the message, in that users have the ability and time to think about how best to articulate themselves” (2). With this added comfort, teenagers can think, re-read and develop the best possible response to give without being pressured and on their own time. Teenagers also now have the option to not have to deal with their problems or weird conversations in real-time face-to-face interactions anymore. All of that nervousness, embarrassment and pressure that can be felt in face-to-face communication is now eliminated through a text; all the teens have to do now is type what is on their mind and push send.
Douglas Dunn gives a little insight on why teenagers are using these SIT’s in this excerpt: “For Today’s teens there are so many ways to communicate that a lot of the embarrassing stuff can be dealt with through technology, rather than having to tough it out in the real world.” Dunn wrote an article on teens and technology titled “Teen Trends: how technology changes (nearly) everything” in which he explored the teenager’s developing relationship with digital technology. He argues that texting/Im-ing are making it easier for teens to speak up but also replacing face-to-face interactions (2). Dunn and Pierce share the same idea that these new socially interactive technologies are eliminating interpersonal communication among teenagers.
One reason for this elimination is the added comfort Dunn and Pierce presented in their articles. This added comfort from texting is known as a safety net for the users. This safety net enables these teens to take as much time as they need to send a message and not feel the real-time face-to-face interaction pressures. Dunn explains and gives a version of what this safety net means in this sentence: “Technology is providing young people with a protective shell, where they can talk about sensitive issues without anyone seeing that they are blushing.” Dunn’s phrase the protective shell shares the same meaning as my term the safety net. Both of the terms hold a definition describing the added comfort and options text messaging can give to teens. This safety net is allowing teenagers to choose if they want to speak to someone face-to-face or just simply text them. An example of a situation where this would occur would be when a teenage couple endures relationship problems that need to be discussed. They can either call each other to meet up or resolve the issue via phone call, or sit back and send texts back and forth without the pressures of a real-time conversation.
As studies and statistics show, teenagers are choosing the safety net option because it is easier. Teens are avoiding real-time conversation and replacing their socialization between each other with this safety net because they simply can. The negative factor of this is experts believe this safety net is having a counteractive impact on teenager’s ability to develop in-person social skills. When people speak in face-to-face interactions to each other, we use three of our human senses that are very important in communication between people: vision, hearing, and touch. We use our vision to see facial expressions, body language and movements while we speak. We use our hearing to listen to the tone of each other’s voices and our touch to feel intimacy. These senses let us become aware of a person’s emotions and purpose in a conversation.
The above-mentioned senses are the benefits of interacting in real time conversations, skills that are practice and not given through texting. In particular, learning how to read a person’s body language, knowing how to give a proper handshake and listening carefully to what is being said are skills that cannot be taught through a book or a cellphone. These are skills that are developed through frequent experiences of face-to-face interactions, experiences that teenagers are losing at a young age and replacing with text messaging. Sonya Hamlin explains what is at stake for these teenagers, “We are losing very natural, human, instinctive skills that we used to be really good at,”(Hamlin, 149).
Hamlin is the author of “How to Talk So People Listen: Connecting in Today’s Workplace”. Hamlin is a leading communication expert and has an overwhelming background that includes a two-time Emmy Award winning daily talk show and teachings of communication courses at Harvard Law School, MIT, and Kennedy School of
Government. Hamlin emphasizes that teens are losing these “very natural, human, instinctive skills” because “they’re not listening. With IM, you can re-read six times before deciding how to answer. There’s no improvisation, none of the spontaneity of phone banter or a face-to-face chat. Talk is a 2euphemism. We do it now in quotes.” (149). Again, teens are using the option to hide behind the safety net and are becoming lazy on how they communicate with each other, therefore leading to poor social skills among these teens.
Like Hamlin, expert Rick Pukis, an Associate Professor of Communications at Augusta State University, argues that teens are losing these social skills: “Text messaging has made us a very impersonal society today. They’re not communicating, not using any facial expressions, like smiling, so when they get back into a situation where they’re talking to someone, they don’t smile. Someone can whip one out in thirty seconds and they’re like, ‘Ahh, I took care of this, I communicated. You didn’t really communicate; you just shot out a one line sentence over to me and didn’t really convey any thoughts.” (NY Times, 2). Dunn goes further in what Pukis’s just mentioned in this passage, “This in turn has led to accelerated friendships, where young people pour their heart out via Instant Messenger, and then are unable to reach this same level of intimacy once they meet in a real-life context.” (2).
What Pukis and Dunn are saying is teenagers are adapting to the new ways of communication among SIT’s and are incorporating them into the way they socialize in person. Teens are becoming used to not showing emotions while they communicate and not caring about reading other people’s emotions. It is easy for teens to type and send whatever they feel in a text but when confronted with a face-to-face interaction, they are lost dogs. When teenagers want to show emotions in a text message, it is through the use of Emoticons. For those who are not familiar with Emoticons, here is the Merriam-Webster definition: a group of keyboard characters (as :-)) that typically represents a facial expression or suggests an attitude or emotion and that is used especially in computerized communications.
What happens when a teen is put in a situation where emotion needs to be presented in person? How will they react? They will react just how Pukis stated: “They’re not communicating, not using any facial expressions” and how Dunn mentioned, “[they] are unable to reach this same level of intimacy once they meet in a real-life context.” Teens are becoming social robots, literally. They are becoming so comfortable with the safety net way of communication that when they are in a real conversation, the social skills needed to hold a conversation or show intimacy is lacking. These in-person social skills are not only important to use for normal communication but also important to develop strong personal relationships among each other.
Teens that learn to socialize effectively with emotions, intimacy and body language are learning to build trust with other people. Trust helps lay the groundwork for healthy adult relationships. If teens are adapting at an early age to communicate like social robots, then they are going to have problems once they hit adulthood. Teens need to learn to derive away from this safety net and take on the real world. Jeffrey G. Parker, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama, has been studying children’s friendships since the 1980s. In Professor Parker’s words, “These good, close relationships —we can’t allow them to wilt away. They are essential to allowing kids to develop poise and allowing kids to play with their emotions, express emotions, all the functions of support that go with adult relationships,” (NY Times, 2)
Other experts who studied friendships argue that technology is bringing teenagers closer than ever. Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer, author of a book published last year called “Making Friends: A Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Child’s Friendships,” believes that technology allows teens to stay connected to their friends throughout the day. Hartley-Brewer comments: “I think it’s possible to say that the electronic media is helping kids to be in touch much more and for longer.” (56); This I can agree with. Yes, technology enables teens the ability to stay connected throughout the day and around the clock. The question on researchers’ minds is whether all that texting allows children to become more connected and supportive of their friends or whether the quality of their interactions is being diminished without the intimacy and emotional give and take of regular, extended face-to-face interactions.
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