An article appeared recently on several social media sites and ultimately ended up on the big three television networks as well. The article discussed teen texting habits, and draws the conclusion that the seemingly normal act of texting might actually warp or ruin a genuine relationship. Katie Anderson, a regular contributor of parenting articles at parade.com, goes on to explain that teen relationships are impaired because of their addiction to texting. As a grandparent whose fears of texting were confined to the kids “texting while driving”, I found this whole idea intriguing.
A recent survey by Pew Research Center finds that 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and two-thirds of teens text every day. The constant availability between teens, between all of us who carry a cell phone, is that we don’t actually need to communicate face-to-face. When teens walk into school on Monday morning, after a weekend away, there’s no need to gather in the lunchroom to discuss the events that took place while they were separated…because they were never really separated! Anderson says, when speaking to a teenage girl about her current relationship, “Think about it. You’re TOO available. He doesn’t have time to miss you or wonder what you’re doing or wish he could be with you because he already IS with you. You live in his pocket for Pete’s sake. This constant texting has burned out the relationship. Killed the allure. Why would he want to come to your house and watch a movie or hang out after school when he feels like he’s “with you’ all the time?”
This availability to others certainly isn’t limited to teens. Many adults do the majority of their communicating via text rather than in person. As a grandparent who has embraced the digital world, (I text, but don’t “do selfies” and do NOT “facebook”), I enjoy the ability to text my children and grandchildren, but certainly not at the exclusion of seeing them face-to-face. As parents, (and grandparents), we need to be aware, and help our children to be aware that the incessant phone-to-phone contact can be dangerous to relationships and not just romantic ones. We need to put down our cell phones, and have a conversation, while in the SAME ROOM, about relationships and communication. It seems funny to tell a story about “the olden days” where you relay how there was one phone that hung on the kitchen wall, and people had to call you to talk to you. But, maybe that’s just the kind of story we need to tell. Maybe it’s more important that the “walking up hill both ways in the snow two miles to get to school” story. Let’s explain the intrigue that comes from wondering what your friends have been doing all weekend, or what type of movies the girl who sits across from you in algebra might enjoy. Let’s share the wonder of “wondering” with our kids.
Texting isn’t going away anytime soon. And, even this grandpa is thankful for that. Rather than being out in the yard, unable to hear my wife yell that dinner is ready, a text gets me to the table quickly! But, then, we’ll put the phones down, and have a conversation face-to-face.
Randel C. Goad – Mandt Faculty