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Is Texting Creating a Generation of Social Misfits?

Posted by Elisabeth Wilkins

Are we creating a generation of social misfits Inappropriate or risky behavior around texting has been widely reported (sexting, anyone ) but some experts are saying that texting can also rob our kids of the ability to interact socially. Seems all the texts that are being sent back and forth each day also prevent people from picking up on body language and facial expressions — a basic skill that we all need in order to communicate effectively. (Do you remember getting the raised eyebrow from your mom when you were a kid, for example Or the scowl on a teacher's face when you'd done something wrong Pretty handy to know how to react next, don'tcha think )

Kids on average send a whopping 2,272 texts per month. That translates to about 9 hours per week spent social networking. And more and more, teens and Gen Y folks use texting in the place of what would have been face-to-face communication in the past. But something happens — or rather, doesn't happen — when you use a smiley face emoticon in place of a real smile. I personally think it's important for adolescents to actually have those face-to-face talks, instead of sending flat one-liners in the place of a real interaction. Sadly, breaking up via text message is now pretty standard. (Painless, maybe. But to me, part of growing up means that you experience emotions — and that you understand how your actions affect others. How else are you going to learn what empathy is all about ) Another part of growing up includes learning how to "read the room" before you walk in, and respecting other people's emotions. (This also has a practical application: If your boss is having a bad day, it's probably not a good time to waltz in and ask her for a raise.)

Texting has gotten so bad that in Silicon Valley they've started instituting "topless" meetings in the workplace, where people aren't allowed to bring laptops, iPhones, or Blackberries with them. They're trying to eliminate the "continuous partial attention" of their employees. (Hmmm, wonder if I can try this with my husband )

Bottom line: People complain that the younger generation is apathetic, distracted and hurried — not to mention the fact that many adolescents can't look people in the eye or hold a decent conversation. Many parents complain that their teen spends all his or her time texting, and ignores the rest of the family. If texting continues to replace face-to-face communication, I'm afraid we're going to see more of the same.

Do you think texting and social networking has made your teen or tween less socially adept How do you handle this in your home

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About Elisabeth Wilkins

Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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