Yesterday the New York Times released a piece titled, “Texting May Be Taking a Toll” written by Katie Hafner.

I pondered the title and noticed it was the New York Times’ most e-mailed story. Then I wondered, a toll on what? Is there some new texting tax?

Those were my initial questions. I read on and was blown away by some of the findings. In one case, a thirteen-year-old girl sent 14,528 text messages a month…A MONTH! Her story was featured in a California newspaper and her message frequency shot up to 24,000 due to her new fame. Ms. Harper also covered issues with the toll texting can take on ones’ thumbs, anxiety and how it effects the classroom. Still in shock I read on and by the end of the article was troubled.

Is texting an addiction? Should the FDA get involved? What is the gateway drug for texting? Letter writing?

As someone who runs a blog designed to evoke collaboration and rapid communication, I find it troubling that there is text abuse happening. I try and promote the idea of good social networking and constant collaboration. In one of my more recent posts, I commented on the founding theory behind facebook fell under the definition of a social network; the most recent incarnation, is not. Again, the ability to be in constant communication at any time anywhere is something very new to our culture. This craze only recently turned into a frenzy and has become commonplace in our daily lives.

It is hard not to find someone texting or on the phone. I think about this a lot when I am in an airport or a train station waiting by myself. When I look around I see phones aglow with tiny (sometimes large) thumbs pressing on a miniature keypad. What did we do before all of this? How did we ever survive? Well, we talked with strangers, we read a newspaper, and we daydreamed. The idea of wondering or pondering has gone away. Now we just know. We know what everyone is doing at all times of the day, whether it is through facebook, twitter or a simple text. But it is good to know. It is good to pop in one someone via a condensed message. It just needs parameters, especially with students.

So what do we do about this abuse of technology in our students’ lives and in our classrooms?

This is my plan of action if I ever catch a student texting in my classroom…

I notice a student texting

“What could you possibly be texting about in my class? I ask the other students to think quickly? What could “Student A” be texting about that is so important?

SILENCE

Students, who have the ability to send nearly 100 messages daily, fall silent when asked a simple question that evokes some minor creativity! (Confused? Watch Pink Floyd’s: Another Brick in the Wall)

I ramble off a quick-witted top five things “Student A” could be texting about…

1. Telling his agent he can’t do lunch in 13 minutes

2. Marcinek’s class is banal (teaching moment, define banal)

3. Wear R U? (see if they can understand grammatical flaw and explain)

4. U breathing?

5. LOL me LMNOP…Z

Students get a chuckle and the class continues. I make a brief request to silence all cell phones, pagers and typewriters. Again, a brief chuckle. Then I segue back to the lesson. We are discussing Lord of the Flies. What advice would you text to Pi

ggy in Chapter 1? What would Piggy Text to his Auntie? What would Jack text to Ralph? Again, a teaching moment brought on by the abuse of technology. Taking the problem and converting it into a teaching moment works much better than wasting time trying to “catch” a student in the act, take their cell phone and then having to deal with over hyped mom or dad, who will most likely march into your room, pause to text something quick, and then ream you out for taking their son or daughters precious cell phone.

Texting is not going anywhere anytime soon. Schools can “crack down” and “police” it all they want, but it has become a fixture in our culture. It is excessive and being abused, however, it will fade eventually and there will be another form of technology to replace it one day. And most likely there will be studies conducted on it and we will all try and be better parents about it, but still use it ourselves. I can see it now…

New from Fruit Based Computer Company…

iThink (Only to be used with iFeeling and iCreate Applications)

iThink will think for you. It will read this writing for you. It will do your homework and get you an A+.

Features:

-Fits comfortably in your brain

-Can think better than you

-Can read 100 words a minute

-Will find you a job

-It will solve your arguments and help you add friends to your iFriend Network

If texting has become such a major problem in the lives of students then we need to intervene now, even if it involves being the un-cool parent or the un-cool teacher. Treat excessive texting like you would an addiction. Don’t get your kids the unlimited text option and don't abuse yourself. Remember those great PSAs where the kid learned how to smoke pot by watching his father? Yeah, if you are an excessive texting parent or an ETP, stop being a hypocrite and monitor your own texting before you crack down on the kids. Also, if you are a teacher, leave your phone hidden or out of view

from students. Don't ever let your kids catch you on it or texting. It just sets a bad example and gives you no leverage when confronting them. Finally, get your kids a text plan that has a cap, make them pay for it and don’t bail them out. I can guarantee you the phone companies are not reading this article with a troubled face.

Tags: cell, classroom, education, k-12, management, phones, technology, texting

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Replies to This Discussion

I do think txting is addicting. It has wrecked havoc amongst a group of 6th graders in our school. Lots of bullying, distractions.
14,000 texts a month? I'm sorry there is something fundamentally wrong with that. Mind you, it is one case, but I would say what would kids do if you took away their cell phones for one week? Even one day? I imagine they would display various signs of withdrawl symptoms.
Kids do show addictive signs. When a student is faced with the (well-understood and well publicised) loss of their phone for an instant, it is an emotion-charged series of moments. They'll usually admit to doing the 'wrong thing', but they'll beg, bully, bluster, grovel etc in order to retain possession of the device.
Sometimes, however they'll go through extravagant denials and outrageous lies - again to retain possession of the substance. (I'm safe - with arthritic thumbs, I can't get into addictive conventional texting!)
L8r
Ian--lol! Txting gives kids immediacy without the opportunity to let level heads prevail. They can txt stuff that comes into their head with 'filter option' disengaged. I predict this is going to cause big problems in schools in the future if it hasn't already.
Ian - I am starting to believe your arthritic thumbs are cured!

I love your point on the denials and lies to "retain possession of the substance". Text messaging does display addictive tendencies in not only kids, but adults as well.
So true, but two things that irk me:

1. A conversation should utilize and display proper English (or your native language). I mean we are seriously creating a new language here! As an English teacher and an etymology enthusiast (I know so cool), this trend is frightening. If kids are conversing say 100 times a day via "Condensed Acronymic Language", then how will this translate to their own reading, writing and literacy? IDK but it's scary.

2. What is the difference between a conversation and being intrusive. A text message is a conversation, yes, but at what point does it become anxiety induced conversation?
Great post. It got me thinking about a lot of things. I think of Pavlovian dogs when students get text messages. They are conditioned to read them immediately. There is no "wait time." If they're in a situation where they can't get to their phone to read the message, you can see the angst on their faces. I can foresee a lot of personality issues if we don't teach our children how to wait for appropriate times to read a text message.
I heard this guy interviewed on NPR, Dumbest Generation. I bet we'll be hearing a lot more about the downsides of social technologies in the next few years.
I read that on average teens send and receive 2,722 text messages per month, averaging at about 80 messages a day (Nielsen Company, 2008), which has doubled since last year.

Psychologists and physicians are now saying that this addiction to texting is actually causes psychological and physical stress. Kids aren't getting a good night's sleep. And the constant need to stay connected or being disconnected temporarily is causing them anxiety, and in school it's a major distraction leading to a drop in grades.

That's why it's crucial for parents and teachers to get on top of this by setting ground rules. In class, it's plain annoying and disrupting. Some colleagues find the best strategy is to collect cell phones at the beginning of class, that way you eliminate policing the class for texting and you avoid the disruptions. I feel as long as they have their cell phones at hand, they'll find ways around classroom rules to sneak in a text message whether that be texting underneath or in the tables or pretending they are going into their backpacks, but actually fiddling with their cell phone.

A risky, but good idea for parents as you mentioned is to get limited text plans. But also, it's just important to lay down your law and set the restrictions as in no texting during school, cell phones must be off at 10 pm, and limiting monthly text messages to 2000 to 2500 maximum, along with some monitoring as in keeping track of cell phone bills and just regularly checking to see that they are complying with the rules.

I think it's also necessary to go over privacy issues as a parent and educator that come with cell phone usage with all the sexting, cell phone hacking, stalking, harassment, and viruses that go on.

If you're interested, here are some cell phone safety tips.
I am not a fan of twitter of text messaging or any kind of tool or environment which leads to constant interruptions and the feeling that one cannot exist without being connected to the source of the next message. I do not think it is good for learning, including language learning, which is my area of interest. I admit that I am 63.
Kiwi and Steve, I agree with both of you, but there will be lots of folks here that don't. I think this is the beginning of a bigger problem going forward. When a problem arose with 6th graders in our school harassing others with cellphones they were told not to bring the phones to school, they did anyway and lied. Without searching them it is hard to enforce. Again, parents needs to be aware of what is going on.

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