anne_mikolay_120According to the New York Times, American teenagers send and receive an average of eighty text messages a day. Physicians and psychologists now state that excessive texting may lead to “anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive stress injury, and sleep deprivation.”

DUH! Parents didn’t need experts to state what became obvious to us the moment our kids got their hands on their first cell phones.

Texting has become a social life-line for today’s teens. As the New York Times correctly points out, while texting “offers companionship and the promise of connectedness,” it also “can make a youngster feel frightened and overly exposed.” Indeed, texting can lead to anxiety, distraction, and sleep deprivation. Allow me to add to that list: texting obliterates the social graces. (Ask a teenager to define “social graces,” and I’ll bet they’ll have to text ChaCha to reply.)

In my opinion, teens rely far too much on texting. Texting unleashes inhibitions; kids say things to one another that they would never say face-to-face. Recently, a girl my son doesn’t even know texted him to ask his opinion of a certain girl in his class. If the girls in question thought that was a good move on their part, they were wrong. My son was annoyed at the intrusion , and as taken aback by the bluntness of the inquiry as I was. How will kids learn sensitivity and empathy if texting allows them to cross boundaries they wouldn’t otherwise? Kids make social plans, even ask one another out on dates, via texting. How will they develop proper etiquette if they don’t know how to conduct a real person-to-person conversation via the telephone? Oh, I’m sorry…I mean the “land line,” as they call it. Proper telephone etiquette, and the delicate art of conversation, can only be learned via practice. Or has texting usurped “real” conversation?

And now, on the tails of texting, comes twitter. When I first heard the term, I had to ask my kids what it meant. For those of you as “uncool” as I am, twitter is “a free social messaging utility for staying connected in real time.” Translation: it’s a tool to tell people what you are doing at any given moment. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t think anybody is interested in the daily doings of my life. What on earth would I twitter? “Sitting at the computer now.” “Mixing meat loaf.” “Making a turn out of Sears’ parking lot. Can’t see around the stupid SUV in front of me.” If you want to show everyone how truly boring a daily life can be, twitter.  Hopefully, twitter will be a quickly fading fad.

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Thankfully, my sons are not impressed with twitter, but they are among the group receiving and sending eighty or more texts a week. I am amazed at the speed with which their fingers fly across the cell phone. They could text an entire book in the time it takes me to text one sentence! I just don’t “get” today’s technology, which proves that some things in life don’t change. When I was a teenager, my parents were initially baffled by non-rotary telephone dials, portable phones, caller I.D., and phone numbers of more than seven digits. And now here I am, equally baffled by cell phones smaller than my wallet, keypads I can hardly see, and a social networking tool called texting. Not to worry! All this techy-stuff  is just another part of the cycle of life. My kids will someday be equally confounded by the technological advancements afforded their own offspring. Time and technology marches on, of course, but let us not over-emphasize technology at the expense of consideration, sensitivity, and the old-fashioned social graces.

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Anne Mikolay

Anne M. Mikolay joined The Atlantic Highlands Herald as a columnist in 2008. Prior to penning “The Armchair Critic,” Anne wrote feature articles for The Monmouth Journal. Her work has appeared in national...