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Report: Texting May Be Harming Teens

The Nielson Company is reporting that texting amongst teenagers leads to anxiety, sleep deprivation, and even repetitive stress injury.

The reason according to Nielson: the texting average has more than doubled since last year. The report stated that the average American teen sends and receives 80, possibly hundreds of messages a day, averaging 2,272 messages per month. The numbers should come as no surprise: Verizon Wireless, Cingular, AT&T Mobility, and other mobile carriers provide unlimited texting plans. Empowered with virtual texting freedom, teens are texting while driving, when crossing streets, while on the toilet, even texting past midnight and on into the early morning hours.

According to the New York Times, psychologists and physicians are beginning to take notice, fearful that the continuous texting could be damaging, especially when the messages average one every two minutes. "That's going to cause sleep issues in an age group that's already plagued with sleep issues," said Dr. Martin Joffe, a Greenbrae, California pediatrician, referring to late night/early morning texting. He recently conducted a survey at two high schools, and discovered that sending hundreds of messages each day was a normal routine for most students.

Although it's too early to see the overall effects of the recent texting boom, several psychotherapists believe texting can be both a great tool and a damaging one. At this point in their lives, teens are to begin the early stages of branching out from the home; to learn how to be an individual and think as one person. By texting Mom or Dad with every question, technology defeats this natural progression. Additionally, teens require "peace and quiet" in order to gather thoughts and decide what kind of adult they want to be. Texting defeats that as well, interrupting that state of mind when vibrating every few minutes.

“Texting can be an enormous tool,” said Michael Hausaur, a psychotherapist in Oakland, California. “It offers companionship and the promise of connectedness. At the same time, texting can make a youngster feel frightened and overly exposed.”

The New York Times article expands into various accounts of texting, how teens covertly text each other by acting as if they're taking something out of their backpack, out of their pocket. Many teachers are unaware of the amount sent and received in the classroom, totally oblivious. However, those that are aware feel powerless in preventing students, and are unable--perhaps even unwilling--to take the time policing the activity every day. Parents are also guilty for not monitoring the amount of texting via the monthly bill. Apparently, parents tend to be far less aware of texting than general computer use or video game playing.

Outside the actual messaging load, physicians are worried about how the activity is wearing on the thumbs. “Based on our experiences with computer users, we know intensive repetitive use of the upper extremities can lead to musculoskeletal disorders, so we have some reason to be concerned that too much texting could lead to temporary or permanent damage to the thumbs," said Peter W. Johnson, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington. He said it was too early to tell if the stress on the thumbs is damaging.

Surprisingly, the New York Times article didn't touch on the subject of "sexting," the practice of sending sexually explicit messages or photos to mobile phones. Recently sexting has become an issue, with child pornography laws coming into effect because of explicit pictures passed between friends, all of whom were underage. According to The Guardian, three teenage girls--sending nude pictures of themselves--were charged with manufacturing and disseminating child pornography, while the three teen boys were charged for possessing the received images.