US: Texting: the teenage girls' addiction

While many boys have dropped out of academic life over the last 15 years of video game development, leaving girls to excel at school, in higher education and jobs, the electronic age may now start suppressing girls with texting.

Over the last 18 months there has been a surge in cell phone texting. And it is turning many young girls' lives into a continuous soap opera.

According to multiple surveys conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life project, one-in-three US teenagers send more than 100 text messages a day and feel they must respond immediately.

Senior Pew researcher Amanda Lenhart stated: "We asked, 'Why don't you just turn off your phones?' We got these looks of horror. They couldn't conceive of turning off their phones."

The nationwide results from the Pew survey included these findings:

* Daily text messaging among American teens has shot up in the past 18 months, from 38% texting friends daily in February 2008, to 54% of teens texting daily in September 2009.
* Teenage girls of 14-17 years lead the charge on text messaging, averaging 100 messages a day. The youngest teen boys are the most resistant to texting - averaging 20 messages per day.
* Text messaging has become the primary way teens reach their friends, surpassing face-to-face contact, email, instant messaging and voice calling as the go-to daily communication tool.
* 12% of all students report they can have cell phones at school anytime.
* 62% of students can have cell phones at school but not in class.
* 64% of teenagers with cell phones have texted in class.
* 25% have made or received calls during class time.
* 24% attend schools that ban all cell phones from school grounds but 65% of cell phone-owning teenagers bring their phones to school everyday anyway and 58% have sent a text message during class.
* 15% of teenagers aged 12-17 who own cell phones have received nude or nearly nude images of someone they know.
* Only 4% of cell phone-owning teens in that age group have sent sexually suggestive pictures of themselves, a practice known as 'sexting'.

The Pew survey found that girls and boys were equally as likely to have sent a suggestive picture to another person while older teenagers were more likely to have engaged in 'sexting'.

Cell phoning and social networking are completely unrelated to what teachers do yet Education Week, the newspaper-of-record for K-12 education in America, is laden with articles gushing about using 'mobile learning' to engage this generation of students.

Tony Orsini, a New Jersey middle school principal with common sense, is not gullible. Interviewed on television, Orsini discussed the e-mail he sent to parents:

"There is absolutely no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! Let me repeat that: there is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! None."

Orsini contends that, "the threat to your son or daughter from online adult predators is insignificant compared to the damage that children at this age constantly and repeatedly do to one another through social networking sites or through text and picture messaging."

* John Richard Schrock teaches at Empora State University in Kansas

When I was young the old people thought that television would ruin my brain; now they think texting will. They should sign up to Facebook and have some fun!

John Mullen