Texting and teen development
MIT researcher says constant texting is causing anxiety, sleep and relationship problems in teenagers.
The following is not a full transcript; for full story, listen to audio.
According to the Nielsen Company, teenagers sent or received an average of 2,272 text messages a month in the fourth quarter of last year, more than double the year before.
MIT Social Studies and Technology Professor Sherry Turkle says constant texting is causing anxiety and sleep and relationship problems in teenagers. Dr. Turkle is author of "Evocative Objects: Things We Think With," and most recently "Simulation and its Discontents."
On "Here and Now" she explained how the "always on technology" affects kids: "When you ask kids, 'are you texting all the time?' They kind of looking at you a little blankly because from their point of view, it's just always there and they'll do it while they're doing other things. They'll answer you with things like, 'oh but it's only two words' -- and they're right, it's only two words. The issue is, what happens to a life, what happens to concentration, and what happens to the developmental issues that teens need to deal with -- when they're texting all the time.
"Adolescence is a time when teens are supposed to define their boundaries and to have a certain autonomy. If you're constantly looking for validation from other people -- getting that message out, needing an immediate response -- teens move from 'I have a feeling, I want to send a text' to 'I want to have a feeling, I need to send a text.' In other words the validation comes so much from other people that it's almost like you lose the sense of feeling your own feelings."
Turkle says intimacy is also hampered by texting behavior: "Intimacy requires that you really become a kind of expert in the face-to-face, and teens use texting as a way to avoid the risks of face-to-face. The risks of being turned down, and if you do that, you see that when you interview them they sort of don't know the difference between an apology and a confession.
"Their idea of apologizing is to send a confession in a text. But an apology is really different. An apology is when you face someone, you see that you've hurt them, you feel bad, and you try to make it right in a kind of delicate negotiation of a conversation. If you're texting all the time, you're not learning how to do those kinds of things."
Sleep problems are also a result of over-texting, and there are also physical problems says Turkle: "I talk to pediatricians all the time who tell me that their thumbs are in danger. Pediatricians are seeing ... repetitive stress injuries with thumbs."
Turkle believes some teens may feel trapped by the technology: "I talked to a lot of teens who feel that there is no choice because if they don't have it, people will think there's something wrong with them, people will think that they don't want to get back to their friends. And I think the social morays are going to start to move in a direction where you'll to see some push-back, both from grownups and teenagers."
"Here and Now" is an essential midday news magazine for those who want the latest news and expanded conversation on today's hot-button topics: public affairs, foreign policy, science and technology, the arts and more.
More "Here and Now"