Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Kids and Texting

An interesting piece on kids and texting in the New York Times. Unfortunately, two passages quotes MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle are so far off the mark, that I question the merit of the entire article. Texting May Be Taking a Toll on Teenagers - NYTimes.com:

In this first passage, Turkle posits that a kids 'job' during adolescence is to separate from their parents, and become the person they are meant to be. Staying connected with parents, by texting with them, inhibits this growth. What a load of hogwash! How is this any different than a kid who calls her mother every night?
Sherry Turkle, a psychologist who is director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and who has studied texting among teenagers in the Boston area for three years, said it might be causing a shift in the way adolescents develop.

‘Among the jobs of adolescence are to separate from your parents, and to find the peace and quiet to become the person you decide you want to be,’ she said. ‘Texting hits directly at both those jobs.’

Psychologists expect to see teenagers break free from their parents as they grow into autonomous adults, Professor Turkle went on, ‘but if technology makes something like staying in touch very, very easy, that’s harder to do; now you have adolescents who are texting their mothers 15 times a day, asking things like, ‘Should I get the red shoes or the blue shoes?’ ’

As for peace and quiet, she said, ‘if something next to you is vibrating every couple of minutes, it makes it very difficult to be in that state of mind.

‘If you’re being deluged by constant communication, the pressure to answer immediately is quite high,’ she added. ‘So if you’re in the middle of a thought, forget it.’
In the second excerpt, she sees kids being resentful of parents on their own Blackberrys, taking attention away from the kids. Which kids did she study? This is so far out of my own experience and observations.
Professor Turkle can sympathize. “Teens feel they are being punished for behavior in which their parents indulge,” she said. And in what she calls a poignant twist, teenagers still need their parents’ undivided attention.

“Even though they text 3,500 messages a week, when they walk out of their ballet lesson, they’re upset to see their dad in the car on the BlackBerry,” she said. “The fantasy of every adolescent is that the parent is there, waiting, expectant, completely there for them.”

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