When does texting get unhealthy?

The teen texting rate keeps climbing. US teens sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages a month in the fourth quarter of 2008, the New York Times reports, citing Nielsen figures. That’s “almost 80 messages a day, more than double the average of a year earlier.” The Times cites one psychotherapist as saying that adolescents’ huge interest in what’s going on with peers plus huge anxiety about being out of the loop spell the potential for “great benefit and great harm” from excessive texting. Other healthcare professionals pointed to potential “anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation.” As interesting to me, if not more, were comments from MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle, who wonders whether all the texting allows teens the “peace and quiet” they need to do their jobs as adolescents: separate from their parents and figure out who they are and will be. Turkle makes two other important points: that parents often don’t set the right example with their cellphone use, and adolescence is a time when people need the kind of undivided attention from their parents that cellphone-addicted parents aren’t giving them. “I believe the ‘cure’ doesn’t lie so much in hand-wringing or policing usage as much as it does in having honest dialogues about the scientific and emotional side effects of tech dependence as experienced by both generations,” writes Ypulse managing editor Meredith Sires in response to the Times piece. Well put. See also “‘Continuous partial attention…’.”

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