Text messaging is not the devil

About a week ago the Deseret News ran an article entitled, “Parents urged to text teens.” The article quoted me extensively (and accurately) and was pretty balanced. I can’t say the same for some of the comments. It’s interesting enough to read posts on random discussion boards across the Web, but it’s another thing when the anonymous writer calls you out personally. Let me share an example:

Texting is impersonal and rude and drives families apart whether this guy knows it or not. Talk to you [sic] teens and forget the texting, its [sic] meaningless and useless means of communication with your family. Ditch the phones and use your voice and vocal chords to communicate, it does more for your teens and makes it a personal conversation. Texting is not communicating, its avoiding your family and a real conversation with them.

Class is now in session…

Texting is a technology, like cell phones, computers, automobiles, electricity, the wheel, fire, whatever. Pick anything. Technology is not evil. Technology is not the devil. We humans are tool builders and creators, and modern technology is a tool. All tools have both positive and negative usages.

After fire, we had cooked meat plus warmth in the winter, and then soon after we had smoke inhalation, burn wounds, and arson. I’m sure that didn’t stop the enthusiastic “Anti-Fire Coalition” from picketing the campfires.

After the wheel was invented, we had improved transportation, followed soon after by the first wheel accident (followed shortly by the arrival of the first insurance agent). The “Society for the Prevention of the Wheel” gained support for a time, but the technology ultimately, um, rolled over their efforts.

There’s no question that texting is less personal than face-to-face communication, but sometimes that’s the best you’ve got. I never advocated that parents stop communicating and hanging out in the same physical space with their children. My point is that when kids are otherwise unavailable, or are remote from your personal space, there may be significant benefits to texting them when the alternative is no communication whatsoever. Turns out even when it’s not the only option, most teens experience a text message from their parents as a positive interaction. A comparable majority feel that their relationships with their parents are better because of text messaging.

The worked-up commenter fails to grasp (or at least to express) that there is a broad spectrum of activities that can be classed as communication. Some communication methods are intimate, like whispering sweet nothings in someone’s ears, holding hands and kissing. Not the right approach at all times, in all places, or with all people. Some methods are face-to-face but casual and friendly, like conversation over breakfast or casual exchanges between friends. Some communication methods are not face-to-face at all, like a phone call from another state. And some communication methods (brace yourself…) are not verbal at all, but textual, like newspapers, billboards, or written letters. Some even involve computers, like email and (gasp!) text messaging. Now let’s be very clear. Like all tools ever invented, every communication method may be used *or* abused. You can kiss or you can hit. You can verbally express love or hate. You can whisper or you can scream. You can send an encouraging email or start a flame war. Same goes for text messaging…

Newsflash: Text messaging does not drive families apart. However, improper use of text messaging, including obsessive and constant texting by teens to friends (real or imagined) outside the family is almost always emotionally damaging. It weakens the strong family ties that are essential to the healthy development of teenagers. Bone-headed adolescent forays into inappropriate activities such as sexting is morally reprehensible as well as spiritually destructive.

Lecture over. Oh wait, one last comment from the back…

Talk about a dysfunctional family, this guy is promoting his and seems to be proud of it. His family probably carries pictures around in their wallets to remember who they are when they bump in to each other in public.

Yes. Texting can be impersonal and rude.

Same can be said for comments left on online message boards.