Fresh Living

textingteen.jpg“American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages
per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Nielsen
Company — almost 80 messages a day, more than double the average of a
year earlier.”

I was surprised–sort of–to read this in today’s New York Times, in an article that reports that doctors and psychologists are both worried about the toll that constant texting may be taking on teens’ emotional and physical health.

Here are the health issues they’re most concerned about:

— Anxiety
— Sleep disturbance
— Repetitive stress finger, hand, and wrist injuries
— Distraction in school

I am not a text-er, but I can tell you from the arthritis in my thumb that the repetitive stress concern is very, very real.  But beyond all of those issues, here’s the most interesting point, in my view: texting might interfere with the developmental tasks of adolescence in important ways. 

Sherry Turkle, a psychologist who is director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at MIT has studied the effects of texting on Boston teenagers for 3 years.  She told the New York Times:

“Among the jobs of adolescence
are to separate from your parents, and to find the peace and quiet to
become the person you decide you want to be,” she said. “Texting hits
directly at both those jobs.”

Psychologists expect to see
teenagers break free from their parents as they grow into autonomous
adults, Professor Turkle went on, “but if technology makes something
like staying in touch very, very easy, that’s harder to do; now you
have adolescents who are texting their mothers 15 times a day, asking
things like, ‘Should I get the red shoes or the blue shoes?’ ”

for peace and quiet, she said, “if something next to you is vibrating
every couple of minutes, it makes it very difficult to be in that state
of mind.

“If you’re being deluged by constant communication, the
pressure to answer immediately is quite high,” she added. “So if you’re
in the middle of a thought, forget it.”

How do you feel about texting?  Do you do it?  Do you worry about the teens in your life who do?  Please share your thoughts on how technology affects your health.

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