Texting Is The New Talking, And Not Just For Teens

textingBy Ron Benvenisti for TLS. 
There’s no doubt that we are moving from talking face to face to text messaging. Even though this can be a great business tool, as obsessive as it is, I don’t think anything could ever replace good old-fashioned person-to-person conversations. You know the ones I mean. Where facial expressions and not “Smileys” or “Emoticons” but body language and not acronyms like ROTFL – Rolling On The Floor Laughing – are still a real possibility. Real life facial expressions and body language are pretty much understood without questioning what the message really means. Consider the fact that basic training for investigators the keen observation of facial expression, gesture, posture and subtle body movements.
“Why have a five minute normal conversation when you can have a full blown half hour misunderstanding?”
It’s true. More arguments are started because of a misconstrued text message that could possibly mean more than one thing. We automatically assume it means the worst of any possible meanings. The possibilities for Lashon Hara are limitless and being Dan L’Chaf Zechut is not exactly the thumb-pounders first reaction. Add the frustration of pressing those tiny keys or the touch screen, especially while eating that pastrami sandwich and you’re primed.
Picture a family in the same house, not talking but texting instead.  Face to face conversations (or floor to floor screaming – and I don’t mean texting in ALL CAPS) is by far deeper and more meaningful when we use our mouths and not our fingers on the keypad.
Phone provider statistics show the original use for the telephone – speaking to another person – is rapidly declining. There is more demand for “unlimited text” plans than “unlimited minutes”. Texting is definitely replacing talking. The data shows that talk minutes are down, and text messaging is up.
Alexander Graham Bell must be saying from the grave, “Vos hob ich dos gedarft, ver volt dos gegleybt?”  (What did I need this for? Who would have believed it?) They, takeh, went back to codes!” LOL? Nu?  Perhaps the venerable MVP catcher for the legendary NY Yankees, Yogi Berra, has the answer:
“It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.”
The Wall Street Journal reports just how extensive the move from voice really is. Nielsen, (the media research giant) at the request of the WSJ, analyzed the cell phone bills of 60,000 mobile subscribers and found adults made and received an average of 188 mobile phone calls a month in the 2010 period, which is down 25% from the same period three years earlier. The average monthly “talk minutes” dropped 5% compared to 2009. For 18- to 24-year-olds, the decline was 17%.  So much for talking! So how about texting? The study reveals that the average 13- to 17-year-old sends and receives 3,339 texts a month (more than 100 per day). Adults are still far behind the kids, but they’re gaining rapidly: People from ages 45 to 54 sent and received 323 texts a month in the second quarter of 2010, up 75% from a year ago.

A survey of 2,000 college students who were asked about their attitudes toward phone calls versus text-messaging found the students’ predominant goal was to pass along information in as little time, with as little small talk as possible. “What they like most about their mobile devices is that they can reach other people,” says Naomi Baron, a professor of linguistics at American University in Washington, D.C., who conducted the survey. “What they like least is that other people can reach them.” This is what they like most about it? Such is the narishkeit of college students, for this we need a study?
A recent Pew Internet & American Life study shows that 85 percent of U.S. adults own a mobile phone and 96 percent of 18-29-year-olds own one. The Pew study found that 76 percent of Americans own a desktop or notebook computer. You can see that cell phone ownership is much higher than PC ownership and (OMG) texting really is replacing talking.
This powerful and prevalent usage of technology has definitely moved our communication behavior out of the box, and what’s outside is not always good.
In the Sunday NY Times, 04/17/11, David Carr basically sums it up when observing a scene at an Austin, Texas, conference. “Almost everyone was walking, talking, moving around with at least one eye–sometimes both–on a small screen.”  This means that even in “real” conversations, people would be distracted during the conversation by whatever or whomever they were checking out on their phone or iPad.  The title of his piece is “Keep Your Thumbs Still When I’m Talking to You.” I kid you not.
When my neighbor picked up her 11 year-old from school, before his book bag was off he was texting friends instead of saying “Hi” to her (or “Thanks”, or is it “thx?”)
Welcome to the inevitable “Generation Text”. With Alexander Graham Bell spinning in his grave instead of enjoying his life work contribution to telephone voice communications, he must be scratching his head with the use of his invention reverting back to something akin to Morse code. We’re replacing spoken words on the phone with something called “cyber language”; A code of symbols and acronyms that don’t require any voice interaction whatsoever. Then, of course, there’s the computer, which, apart from being pretty much sold as a “requirement” these days for “school work”, it seems mainly to exist for young people to explore the pervasive (and I might add, intrusive) world of Facebook, where many relate every action and feeling they experience for hours each day in this arcane language.
Today you’re just not “with it” if you force your kids to hang up at dinnertime, (like my parent’s did) or you want to share family experiences, listening and talking together, expressing feelings and opinions together.
A panel of four experts who are deeply involved in assessing this rapidly evolving new world got together to discuss the subject right here in New Jersey: Princeton Psychiatrist Steve Resnick, Psychologist Michael Osit, who practices in Warren and Morristown, College student Christina Kopka from The College of New Jersey, and a representative of the Hopewell Township Police Department. They each addressed experiences with texting abuse, the legal aspects (privacy, age restrictions, etc) and about how social networking can be identified as addiction — and how to treat it.  That’s right: Addiction.
Resnick urges the bottom line is knowing your own child. He says it’s almost impossible to leave your kids out of the world of cell phone and computer use without separating them from their generation, and the needs of modern-day education. He said that when early telephones became common, people also feared them, too, as depersonalizing one-to-one eye contact. Resnick stressed that deciding what is “normal” versus what is a problem is complicated, controversial and has by no means been settled.
Warning signs parents should heed, which he included in a recent study of his own, includes such concerns as neglecting sleep to stay online, withdrawing from other pleasurable activities and lying about the extent of internet use and these are just a few of more than a dozen signs of addiction adopted from a prominent study.
Psychologist Michael Osit adds, “I see a deterioration of values, attitude, behavior and respect for authority and the work ethic in young people’s increased creation of a self-absorbed internet world.”  Scary stuff.  He goes on to say, “Cell phones and computers are not an entitlement, they are a privilege and all privileges must come with limits and boundaries. If your children start using them when young, it must be with specific rules and boundaries, and a parent must have access to kids’ passwords, in order to corral the limits.”
Osit and Resnick both are also concerned about the increase in cyber bullying, which Osit says has “escalated to a much different, higher level.” Osit’s new book, “Generation Text: Raising Well-Adjusted Kids in an Age of Instant Everything” is an eye opening read.
The bottom line is, unless we proactively address these changes in our kids’ lives, we’re not only going to be sorry down the road but we’ll also be shirking our responsibility for their welfare.
“Touching People with Kindness Instead of Touching an iPod”
Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu recently reported on Arutz-Sheva that Bnei Akiva broke the “Plasma generation” away from their iPods by launching its first-ever “International Kindness Day” to raise money for the needy – from  New Zealand, to California and Israel. Thousands of Bnei Akiva members throughout the world abandoned their iPods and united “to express our belief that the world is built on chesed.” “The younger generation is too busy with technology instead of their emotions. Instead of touching people, they touch iPods,” said Ze’ev Schwartz, Secretary General of World Bnei Akiva
The national religious youth organization suggested other ways that kids can get off “the hook”. Hang up and sign up for community help projects such as holding holiday parties in hospitals, orphanages, women’s shelters and homes for the disabled. Inviting underprivileged children and the chronically ill to Holiday parties; collecting and distributing items for the needy; cleaning and repairing damaged cemeteries; and painting and cleaning old age homes and homes for the disabled.  Sounds like a plan to me, but getting kids away from the technology is not so easy.
Many young people feel distressed when separated from their mobiles. They actually have addiction withdrawal symptoms. Trying to stop a kid from using their computer or mobile phone usually results in a tantrum. Researchers claim such outbursts may not be purely petulant. The withdrawal symptoms young people experience when deprived of their gadgets are comparable with those of drug addicts going ‘cold turkey’.
Researchers found that 79 per cent of students subjected to a complete media blackout for just one day reported adverse reactions ranging from distress to confusion and isolation. They told of overwhelming cravings, with one saying they were literally ‘itching like a crack head [crack cocaine addict]’.
The study focused on people between 17 and 23 in ten countries, including the UK, where about 150 students at Bournemouth University spent 24 hours banned from using phones, social networking sites, the internet and TV. They were, however, allowed to use landline phones or read books and were asked to keep a diary of their thoughts and feelings. One in five reported feelings of withdrawal akin to an addiction while 11 per cent said they were confused or felt like a failure. Another 19 per cent reported feelings of distress and 11 per cent felt isolated. Only 21 per cent said they could feel the benefits of being unplugged. Some students even took their mobile phone with them just to touch them.
One participant reported: ‘I am an addict. I don’t need alcohol, cocaine or any other derailing form of social depravity. Media is my drug; without it I’m lost.’ Another wrote: ‘I literally didn’t know what to do with myself. Going down to the kitchen to pointlessly look in the cupboards became regular routine, as did getting a drink.’ A third said: ‘I became bulimic without my media; I starved myself for a full 15 hours and then had a full-on binge.’  Frightening.
Habitual Second Nature and Powerful Peer Pressure
Susan Moeller, lead researcher of a University of Maryland study, said: ‘Technology provides the social network for young people today and they have spent their entire lives being “plugged in”. ‘Some said they wanted to go without technology for a while but they could not as they could be ostracized by their friends.’ Claiming that technology ‘absolutely’ changed relationships, Professor Moeller’s study showed that: ‘When the students did not have their mobile phones and other gadgets quite a number reported a difference in conversation in terms of quality and depth as a result.’ So there is a glimmer of hope.
Bed Time Stories or Cultural Chaos
While the findings of these studies do not apply to our frum community as a whole, it is worthy to note this one which finds that kids pretty much have to be bribed to go to bed as parents deal with the ‘just let me get to the end of this level’ panic attack on the game console. 17 per cent of parents use a “later weekend bedtime”, 28 per cent tells their kids they can play or watch a bit more and 6 per cent are given candy. Just what you want them to eat before going to sleep! Around 2.5 per cent of those surveyed admit their children refuse to go to bed until over an hour of haggling, arguing and demands. It takes more than 20 minutes for parents to get their children to bed on average with a quarter saying it takes them more than half an hour. The study conducted by Munch Bunch books also found that children under 10 watch almost an hour and 20 minutes of TV before bed. Almost a third of parents have never read a book to their child while 44 per cent are just too tired for it. Putting kids to bed often is the hardest part of the day.

It’s often easier to give in to their demands and let them watch television or play games for a little longer. Today’s kids prefer this to a bedtime story and in frustration parent’s often give up. Children’s author Simon Bartram said: ‘Storytelling should be a priority in getting a child ready for bed. It is important for the development of the child’s reading, writing and creative skills.’
The “Generation Text” comes with a tough social landscape to navigate for kids already dealing with poor self-esteem, said Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a Boston-area pediatrician and lead author of the new American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines.
Being disconnected from the phone can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down, O’Keeffe says. Kids get a skewed view of what’s really going on in the world and it affects their emotions. As we noted before, online, there’s no way to see facial expressions or read body language that provide context as in a face to face conversation.
The new guidelines urge pediatricians to encourage parents to talk with their kids about online use and to be aware of depression, cyber bullying, sexting and other online risks.
The academy guidelines also note that online harassment “can cause profound psychosocial outcomes,” including suicide. G-d forbid.  A well publicized suicide of a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl last year occurred after she’d been bullied and harassed, in person and on Facebook.
These Numbers Don’t Lie
·    1 in 7 (13%) youth Internet users received unwanted solicitations.
·    4% of youth Internet users received aggressive solicitations, in which solicitors made or attempted to make offline contact with youth.
·    9% of youth Internet users had been exposed to distressing material while online.
·    38% of children under 13 have an account.
·    84% of those have accounts with a minimum age requirements of 13, and of those many lie about their age.
Instruct Your Kids To:
Use only a first name or nickname to identify them.
Never give out identifying information such as address or phone number. Even town names, schools and club memberships.
Never send photographs of themselves to people they do not personally know.
Never agree to a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online without supervision.
Never download pictures or videos from an unknown source as there is a good chance they will be explicit, even from YouTube.
Parents Should Get to Know the Online Lingo
121: one to one
ADN: any day now
AFAIK: as far as I know
AFK: away from keyboard
B4: before
B4N: bye for now
BAK: back at keyboard
BF: boyfriend
BFN: bye for now
BG: big grin
BTA: but then again
BTW: by the way
CID: crying in disgrace
CNP: continued (in my) next post
CP: chat post CU: see you
CUL: see you later
CYO: see you online
DBAU: doing business as usual
FUD: fear, uncertainty, and doubt
FWIW: for what it’s worth
G2G: got to go
G: grin
GA: go ahead
GAL: get a life
GF: girlfriend
GFN: gone for now
GMBO: giggling my **** off
GMTA: great minds think alike
HAGN: have a good night
HHIS: hanging head in shame
IAC: in any case
IANAL: I am not a lawyer (but)
IC: I see
IDK: I don’t know
IMNSHO: in my not so humble opinion
IMO: in my opinion
IOW: in other words
IPN: I’m posting n***d
IRL: in real life
L8R: later
LD: later, dude
LDR: long distance relationship
LLTA: lots and lots of thunderous applause LMIRL: let’s meet in real life
LMSO: laughing my socks off
LTR: long-term relationship
LULAB: love you like a brother
LULAS: love you like a sister
M/F: male or female
OLL: online love
OTOH: on the other hand
RPG: role playing games
SHID: slaps head in disgust
SO: significant other
SOMY: sick of me yet?
SOT: short of time
SP: sock puppet
TTYL: talk to you later
UW: you’re welcome
WB: welcome back
WFM: works for me
WIBNI: wouldn’t it be nice if
WTGP: want to go private?
WTG: way to go
YM: young man
I would be remiss if I didn’t address the link that texting and talking have to fatal motor vehicle accidents.
Texting and driving kills thousands of drivers and pedestrians say researchers (Source: Reuters) There have been numerous studies that have sought to correlate texting or talking on a mobile phone while driving with an increase in traffic accidents and fatalities. There have been several studies that claim to find the link between texting and an increased chance of accidents and those studies have resulted in bans on texting and driving and talking and driving in some states.
A new scientific study conducted by Fernando Wilson and Jim Stimpson of the University of North Texas Health Science Center has used accident reports obtained from the NHTSA and information on cell phone ownership and data on text message volume from the FCC to create an estimate of how many people are killed by talking or texting on cell phones. According to Wilson and Stimpson, as many as 16,000 people from 2001 to 2007 were killed on the nation’s highways directly by texting or talking and driving.
The pair of researchers wrote in the American journal of Public Health, “Our results suggested that recent and rapid increases in texting volumes have resulted in thousands of additional road fatalities in the United States.” Wilson told Reuters in a telephone interview, “Since roughly 2001-2002, texting volumes have increased by several hundred percent.  The pair of researchers estimates that with every million new cell phone subscribers the number of deaths caused by distracted driving rise 19%. In 2008, about 1 in 6 fatal vehicle collisions resulted from distracted driving. The exact number is 5,870 people. Wilson admits that the only way to curb texting and driving or talking on the phone and driving is to have better enforcement methods. Unlike drunk driving, where you have effective enforcement mechanisms you don’t have that with texting. The cop just has to get lucky and see you texting while driving.” In other words, there is no “textalyzer test” but cops do have a right to inspect your cell phone for timestamps which can be incriminating evidence, at least for now. Privacy advocates are seeking ways to make a search warrant necessary and catching drivers in the act is difficult.
As Arnold Fine used to always say, “Takeh, today it’s a different world.”
Please, let’s use some common sense and do our part. In that Zechut may Hashem watch over us and protect us and our beloved children.

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  1. thank you lakewood scoop for putting out this article. yes i have texting but i try never to have a serious convesation through text because i learned the hard way thta it extremely damaging. i cant even count how many weeks i spent making up to people for miscommunications through text. theres hard feelings, anger, and hurt for no reason and causing another jew pain is serious business. texting is without a doubt a tool from the yetzer hora to destroy marraiges, friendships, gidrei tznius… i dont have the strength to give it up just yet, but i really really want to

  2. Yes, its so annoying. my mother got a smartphone and started texting all day. every minute she send like 5 texts and it is so annoying. When i sit upstairs in my room i get a text from her. What happened to good old fashioned communication? I dont text nearly as much as her. Idk what is with the older generation.

  3. Just wondering.
    If texting is like talking, can u send a txt after saying Baruch She’amar? Or would it be considered like giving a “remez”?

  4. I have a question to ask.
    When we are born we get X amount of words to use.
    Does the computer and texting matter? is that included
    Is that one of the reasons poeple are living longer?

  5. to #3
    NO actually that would be a disgrace to Hashem. That gives us everything…. & a person doing anything during davening besides davening to Hashem is giving one message to Hashem saying. my cell phone & business is more important then you (Hashem) that gave me my cell & hands & feet etc….

  6. great article! this should be given out in high school! it’s crazy how many kids have blackberries and iphone’s these days!!! ( text 24-7!!!)

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