Are Texting Teens Forgetting How To Talk


By Lisa Earle McLeod

Last month my 16-year-old sent and received 8,307 texts. Yes, you read that number correctly – 8,307 text messages in one billing cycle. Of course, she says that number is misleading. “They count the sent messages, too, and a bunch of those were probably group texts.” So the real number she sent last month is probably only a scant 3,500 or so. Who knew that when I upped our cell phone plan to include unlimited texting that my child might single-handedly (or I guess more accurately, double-thumbedly) cause AT&T to rethink their definition of “unlimited?” What can I say? We’re just that kind of overachieving family. I’m surprised her thumbs haven’t worn down. As best I can tell, her hands still seem fairly normal. Although if Darwin’s theory holds valid, I look for her children to be born with a third eye on their shoulder, and a pair of thumbs coming off the side of their left elbow, so they can text while they drive, eat and post YouTube videos. If you don’t have a teenager, let me fill you in on the trend. My generation may have been born with a princess phone glued to our ears, or at least that’s what my dad always claimed. But this generation was born clutching a cell phone. However, they don’t actually talk on it, they just text. My daughter said of a friend of hers who moved to a different school district, “We talk every day.” But upon asking her about their conversations, it turns out “talk” means texting. So while she and her friend frequently give each other status updates, there’s not much of the nuanced back-and-forth or tone, emotion and inference you would get had they used their actual voices. As a writer, I am always delighted to see people make use of the written word. But I’m not sure TTYL (talk to you later) or OMG! (Oh My Gawd) count as improving your language skills. However, it occurs to me that perhaps this is more than a teen trend. Perhaps this is payback time for all us parents who yacked on our cell phones while our little kids were sitting in the back seat. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but there were many times, when my kids were little, that I was either: A) So behind on my phone calls, that I shushed them so that I could return my messages on the way to swim practice, or B) So stressed out that I unloaded with a friend while they looked out the window. I know, I should have been having meaningful conversations or playing the alphabet game or teaching them a foreign language. But with girlfriend gossip just one speed dial button away, I admit I often succumbed. If I could have the time back, I swear I would be more attentive. But like so many other moments in our lives, once it’s gone, it’s gone. So for now I’ll just have to count my blessing that my texting teen still makes time to actually speak to her mother, using real words and almost always nice facial expressions. And my second child doesn’t even own a cell phone yet, so I get even more interaction from her. I know they’ll leave one day and have even less time for their mother. I just pray that they won’t block me from following them on Twitter.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a syndicated columnist, author, keynote speaker and business consultant who specializes in helping individuals and organizations create happiness and success. Her latest book is Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear – For more info – <>

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