How Much Is Too Much?
If you think you have a teenager who texts too much, odds are you are probably right. The average teenager texts 3,000 times a month. That's an average of about 100 per day. In the past few years, texting has increased by a whopping 600 percent.
Although there is nothing wrong with texting in itself, too many teenagers take it to the extreme. Instead of paying attention in class, doing homework or studying at home, teens are too busy sending messages back and forth on their phones. This causes classroom disruptions and grades to slip. In addition, texting can actually hurt them socially. No one wants to be on a date, a luncheon with friends or family dinner when one person is continuously texting. The Pew Research Center reports that texting is currently the preferred method of communication with texting being more popular than talking on a cell phone.
Associate Professor Tamyra Pierce of the California State University-Fresno has studied this phenomena and has determined that 47 percent of high school students spend one to four hours a day involved with text messages.
So why is it so addicting? To start with, it causes the brain feedback to its pleasure center due to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Family therapist Steve McCready of Sacramento, California, states that this release of dopamine is similiar to forms of drug usage. While texting, it comes in small doses. This can cause teens to want to text more and more. Although a sense of euphoria can be felt at the time, this can be replaced with irritability if the teen is unable to continue communication.
There are also medical issues associated with text messaging. One is sleep deprivation. Some teenagers are so addicted that they can't even sleep through the night without sending and receiving messages. According to the Leuven Study on Media and Adolescent Health, twenty one percent of sixteen-year-olds are waking up one to three times a month simply to text, which is causing disruptions in their sleep cycles. Another issue is pain due to the constant movement of the thumbs. Thumb numbness has been reported along with neck and back pain due to bad posture. What does it hold for the future? Teenagers may have to look at thumb joint replacement surgery and carpal tunnel in the future.
One of the most dangerous aspects of texting comes from teens who try to drive and text at the same time. Although it is currently illegal in 34 states to text while driving, including the highly populated state of California, many teenagers ignore the law and continue connecting with their friends anyway.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driver distraction, including the use of cell phones, is responsible for 16 percent of fatal car accidents for drivers under the age of 20. On numerous occasions this has led to fatal car crashes. Not only is this horrendous for a parent who loses a child due to the irresponsibility of a teenager, it can also be devastating on a parent who has a teen who has caused the death of another person. So what is a parent to do?
Many teenagers have a curfew for being out as well as a bedtime. A cell phone doesn't have to be any different. Set up a time in the morning when your teenager is allowed the usage of a cell phone, as well as a cut off time at night. If you do not believe your teen will abide by these rules, then predetermine the time that you will take the phone away to assure the child will not be texting. You may be viewed as an evil villain, but in the long run you are doing the best thing you can for your child. Unfortunately, not all teens will abide by their parents' rules. If this happens to be the case, there are choices that can be made.
- As suggested, you can either take your teenager's cell phone away or change your cell phone plan that will not allow any texting on your child's phone.
- There are phone companies such as AT&T that offer texting plans with a certain amount of minutes each month allowed for texting. Unfortunately, if anyone goes over the amount of time, you will be billed for it.
- Look for a child's cell phone plan that lets you set times when a child's cell phone is active, such as Kajeet.
Although unlimited texting plans sound good, it can have detrimental consequences to your child. It is advisable to speak to your cell phone company directly to find out what kind of parental controls are offered.The teenage years can be very difficult and power struggles may occur. However, it is up to you as a parent to enforce the rules. If you fear that your child may be texting while driving, make it a rule that he or she must hand over the phone before getting behind the wheel of a car. This may very well save someone's life, including the life of your child.
Text messaging is very popular among teenagers. Unfortunately, it has many adverse side effects. With 80 percent of kids owning cell phones, parents need to keep an eye on the amount of time their teenagers spend on the phone. If it seems like it is an excessive amount, take action to prevent your child from becoming an adolescent texting addict.
Burrell, Jackie. Teens, Texting, and the Sleep Connection. Phys.org.
Lenhart, Amanda. Teens and Mobile Phones. Pew Research Internet Project.
Traffic Safety Notes. NHTSA.gov.
Top photo by Paul Martin Lester at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cell_phones.jpg
Bottom photo by Alton at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Texting.jpg