By Donna Shea & Nadine Briggs
I (Donna) know a tween who just received her first cell phone. In actuality, it’s more of the fact that now she just doesn’t have to be near WiFi to do the things she typically has done on a cellular device that wasn’t connected to a service. It also adds text messaging and phone calls (do kids even make phone calls anymore?) so that her parents can maintain communication as she spreads her wings into after-school activities.
As expected, the first thing she did was add all of her friends (and family) to her contacts so that she could text them. Since I am one of those family members, I get a kick out of being able to text her, too. We would connect via SnapChat before, but texting is a little easier. As with any kid just getting their first technological wings, she’s been a little bit of a text maniac.
The instant communication that texting brings also creates the urge to reply immediately. I think that is something that most of us, or maybe even all of us who have texting capabilities, may experience. I personally have decided to try to treat text messages more like emails. It takes a little of the pressure off. I don’t know about anyone else, but I become very easily derailed when a text message comes through. I also think that I allow my device, in general, to impact my productivity in ways that it should not.
The impetus for that thinking came from overhearing a conversation between the dad and this tween. Her dad was discussing with and reinforcing for her that a text message is not an emergency and she can train her brain to not respond as if it were. A true emergency would elicit a phone call from the person trying to reach you.
She’s a tween with technology and this is how kids communicate and socialize these days. For that matter, so do we as adults. I think for the typical technology user, something will trigger in your brain to let you know that you’ve had enough. I think for kids and teens who struggle with the social side of life, may also struggle with the balance that technology requires of us to stay socially healthy. One of my assistants was telling me that he can see on his phone how much time he’s spent each day on different apps and it was an eye-opener for him to see how much time he had actually wasted that he could have been doing something else.
Nadine and I are consistently talking to kids about being a “good consumer” of the technological marvels that are available to us. Stats tell us that the average teenager sends and receives over 3000 texts a month. That is a LOT of “emergencies” that their brains are responding to. This tween’s dad told her a good rule for non-emergency texts would be to reply within 4-5 hours. My brain tends to agree.