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By Briana Tomlinson, Kenwood
Adrianna Parker, Homewood-Flossmoor
and Michael Geheren, Huntley

The relationship between American teens and texting has grown at a tremendous rate over the years. As technology continues to grow, young people’s texting habits have grown with it. Nielsen Company figures show that American teens sent and received 2,272 text per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to a New York Times article in May 2009. That’s about 80 text messages a day, more than double the previous year’s average, the report said.

Adults may question why teens prefer texting over calling, but even some teens are saying that some text messages are getting lost in translation, leading to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

Kenwood junior Marrsail Bailey said that some people use texting to cover their true feelings. “It messes up people’s personalities because it’s like a shell they can hide inside,” he said.

Huntley senior Allie Ritzert says that her biological father doesn’t even talk to her on the phone, he just texts her.

“Sending a nice text or rude text to tell someone something that is supposed to provide emotion or meaning is not the same as having a conversation on the phone or in person,” Ritzert said.

Marcus Powell, another Kenwood junior, added, “It makes some people’s grammar horrible, but it is still a good way to communicate without disturbing others.”

The technology may be close to a universal form of communication among teens, but the rules and etiquette are not. Several teens told The Mash that they believe there are certain rules one must follow depending on who they are texting. For example, when someone first receives a boy’s or girl’s number, the conversation should revolve around getting to know the other person, said Jamie McCann, a junior at King. “Ask them questions about what they like and their personality,” she said. “See if they’re a good person.”

But when texting someone who is a teacher or boss, Kenwood sophomore Alexandria Richardson said, “Don’t try to have normal conversation. Get straight to what you want to ask.”

Not all teens will agree, however, on when texting is appropriate. According to a survey by GOGII, the creator of textPlus, a texting application, 40 percent of teens would consider using a text message to ask someone to the prom.

“The funny thing we found out was that 64 percent would accept a date, if they were asked by text,” Drew Olanoff, director of community for GOGII, told KWSB-TV in San Diego.

Etiquette expert Elaine Swann draws the line at texting for a date, saying it’s inappropriate. “My first response is (screeching sound), what’s happening to teenagers today?” she said in an interview with the TV station in April.

“Maybe you can use a text message to say, ‘Hey, can you meet me at the corner after school,’ or ‘Meet me in the volleyball court, I want to talk to you about something,’ ” Swann said. She said that you should at least use the person’s name in a text to personalize it.

Just as texting has been used to start relationships, it also has become an easy way out of them. The practice is even parodied in a Sprint commercial, in which a woman breaks up with her boyfriend using the different features on her phone.

For Richardson, of Kenwood, it was all too real. “I received a text saying, ‘We need a break’ from a boy I was talking to. That is inappropriate.”

Another student, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Mash that she, too, received a breakup text from her now ex-boyfriend that read, “I am not happy … this isn’t working. Don’t talk to me ever again.”

Last month, Huntley junior Tiffany Mazur received graphic messages from acquaintances at school, such as “(bleep) off” and “crash your car and die.” She told The Mash that she hadn’t had any arguments or conflicts with the students and didn’t know why they sent the messages.

“Doing that shows a lot about their character,” Mazur said. “Their parents obviously didn’t teach them that being rude has consequences. Teen suicide because of technology is at a rise.”

Whatever its drawbacks, texting’s virtues outweigh its negatives, several teens said. And one of its biggest advantages is it makes them feel comfortable.

“It gives you time to come up with something to say,” said Richardson, of Kenwood. “There are no awkward moments like on the phone.”

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About The Mash

The Mash is the Chicago Tribune's newspaper and website written for teens, by teens. The paper is distributed for free each Thursday at Chicago-area high schools and is written largely by high school students.

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