Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Texting and Social Networking: The New Boogeymen!

Yesterday, researchers at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine released a study declaring that texting and social networking are the boogeymen we’ve always thought them to be. They described a whole list of “bad things” that can happen to teenagers who engage in what they call “hyper-texting” or “hyper-networking.” They chose to define hyper-texting as sending more than 120 messages a day, and hyper-networking as spending more than three hours per school day on social networking sites like Facebook. I won’t go into their entire list of evils brought on by hyper-texting and hyper-networking because you can read that for yourself here at CNN’s story. But basically the implication is that students who engage in their idea of hyper-texting and hyper-networking become smokers, illicit drug-users, binge drinkers, and the list goes on. CNN throws in for good measure that these activities have also been blamed for car accidents and for promoting bad grammar. (Never mind that CNN might be promoting bad grammar themselves by their own misspelling of the word “language” in the second to last paragraph) which reads:

And educators have long decried electronic forms of communication for gutting written launguage skills in students, starting with emails, expanding to instant messaging and continuing with text messaging and social networking. (Misspelling Theirs Not Mine)”

They do acknowledge that “teachers complained about poor grammar before the Internet too,” thereby pointing out that these complaints are not new. CNN just reminded us again, that scapegoating is again live and well, and those who are foes to social media now have a Case Western Research study that backs up their belief in “evils of texting and social networking.”

When are we going to stop looking for something to blame for the ills of our societry? Texting and social networking are just like anything else: when used in an excessive or obsessive manner, there’s going to be problems. Researchers promoting these kinds of studies aren’t helping by looking for these“boogeymen.” As an educator and technology advocate, I bristle each time these kinds of studies are released. I can just picture some parent or teacher using this kind of research to support not using technology in the classroom which we know is of benefit. I’m sure if the lives of each subject in this study were examined more closely, there would be additional factors that led them to engage in the “evils” described. Let’s quit looking for boogeymen and single causes. Instead, let’s look at how we can help them be more responsible in their choices in the use of technology.


  1. Great Post. I am surprised that these kids aren't also fat, although they should be if they are parked in front of a computer so long. Sex, drugs, and rock & roll aren't new for these kids. I was encouraged to see that some poor kids are involved. If they are doing this sort of thing rather than watching TV, they must be developing some useful skills.
    Keep up the good work. DrDougGreen.Com
    Douglas W. Green, EdD

  2. There are just too many studies that are released without explanation. Correlation does not mean causation. But all of the articles I have read about this study seem to make readers believe that is the case.

  3. Well stated, John!

    The assumption in all of these studies seems to be that these ills of society didn't exist before. Like everyone, I hear "teenagers don't know how to talk anymore" because of texting and social media. Having a teenage brother, and asking my father about how I talked when I was a teen (which was in the times of cassette decks and the Commodore 64), he informed me that I tended to communicate using a series of monosyllabic grunts barely audible to the human ear. At that time, it would have been localized to my using a Sony Walkman. And yet, lo and behold, I am here today, and I am sure my father would say that you can hardly get me to keep my mouth shut.

    To echo your point, John: social media tools will be the saddled with the blame for the ills of society until the next great thing comes along. Apparently, we need another Sony Walkman to take the spotlight off of social media tools!