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All eyes on texting

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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Kids’ thumbs can’t keep still these days. Whether at school, hanging out with friends or sitting at the dinner table, it’s highly likely the teens you know go through day-to-day life with cell phone in hand like the grown-up version of a security blanket. And even if you don’t see it, just listen carefully for the rapid fire of tiny click-click-clicks of texting in progress. “I text morning until night, from 7 in the morning until 1 in the morning,” Amanda Cox, a Placer High sophomore said, hardly looking up from her phone while talking during a recent lunch break on campus. Cox, who has an unlimited text-messaging plan after racking up a $600-plus cell phone bill, guesses about 85 percent of her fellow students text while in class. “I can do it with one hand, without looking, and I spell everything right,” she said. Cox’s friend, fellow sophomore Caitlin Mayo, guessed her highest text-related cell phone bill came in around $1,300. “I don’t like talking on the phone, and you can have multiple conversations at once,” she said. Mayo and Cox both said they’re not allowed to have their phones at dinner. How about church? “I’ve done it,” Mayo admitted. Anywhere you won’t text? “Nope,” Cox said. So what is it about texting that’s so appealing? “It’s a habit, it’s worth it and it’s worth the time,” Cox said. Brittney Reill, 21, a sales associate at Parrot AT&T in Auburn, has seen it time and time again. “It’s something every customer with children asks about,” she said of texting. Reill said many parents are now privy to unlimited text-messaging plans, whether they learned it the easy way or the $1,000-cell-phone-bill way. On an individual account, unlimited texting costs $20 per month, or $30 for an entire family on a family plan. “For our generation, we’ve been growing up with that technology,” Reill said. Newcastle grandmother Dot Shiro knows she’s slowly going the way of texting. “When my grandchildren get older I’ll be a texter,” she said. “It’s just the progression, I think. I don’t have any objection to it. I just haven’t gotten used to it.” Gary Pantaleoni, Placer High assistant principal, said long gone are the days where students kept a quarter in their pocket or purse for the pay phone. Passing notes on paper? That’s also passé. “It’s a generational thing and this is the way they communicate,” he said. School policy states cell phones aren’t to be used, in any form, during class, and that they must be turned off and put away. Get caught using a phone in class, whether it’s up to your ear or under the desk, and you’ll get the phone taken away. Second time around, you don’t get the cell phone back until a parent picks it up. Third time around, the student is suspended for defiance. Along with disciplinary action, there are also social consequences that come with cell phone use, and the immediacy of texting. “What I don’t think students understand is that once you’ve written it down, there’s a trail,” Pantaleoni said. “Those things can always come back if some issue comes up.” Pantaleoni said nasty texting, the sending of “Did you hear what so-and-so did?” to everyone in your address book, is much more toxic than the rumors of less technologically advanced days. “They’re carrying it on in written form,” he said. “It tends to make those issues hang around longer.” Rad McCord, who teaches physical education at Placer High, said he sees texting all the time. “Daily. Every period, and those are just the ones I see, and I’m in a situation where it’s harder for them to hide it, so you can just imagine what’s going on when they’re not wearing PE clothes,” he said. An infatuation with, or addiction to, texting, can cause some serious strain between texters and their bill-paying parents. “Her phone buzzes constantly! She ran up a $300 bill before her father put her on an unlimited plan,” local mother Pamela Lee said via e-mail. “I know our kids today take for granted a different technology than I was raised with, but it makes me wonder if they are losing their ability to communicate wisely and with intelligence. If I call my daughter on her cell phone — she rarely answers, but if I text her I get an immediate response.” Lauren Forcella, editor of the Journal’s “Straight Talk for Teens” column, believes teens text too much. “It’s not healthy in that they are never just alone with themselves,” she said. “Many teens send over 3,000 texts a month. Many send 5,000 to 7,000 a month. It is constant throughout whatever they are doing, unless they are asleep. It even interrupts that.” Forcella offered some suggestions for parents setting boundaries with their children’s cell phone usage. “Kids should have to shut off their phones at bedtime so their sleep is not interrupted by the buzz, chime, or ringtone,” she said. “They should not be allowed to text at the table, or during a conversation with a parent or adult or in front of a sales clerk. Teachers should collect cell phones in a basket at the beginning of classes. Of course they should never text while driving, although many do. Periodically, parents should set up cell phone-free “vacations” so kids experience a break and remember what it was like BCP (before cell phone). When a phone breaks, don’t run right out and get another one.” That might be easier texted than done. The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at lorylln@goldcountrymedia.com, or comment online at Auburnjournal.com.