Is texting bad for my children?

Listening to NPR on the way home from dropping my kids off at carpool, I heard an advertisement from CHLA.org.  It was a PSA, and it started with the words “Is texting bad for your children?”  The smooth toned announcer then informed us that “Unfortunately it is,” and went on to tell the listeners why — lack of sleep and more.   Even on NPR, the data that well meaning advertisers report is misused and can consequently mislead parents.  Let me explain why.

The fundamental problem with this advertisement and so many more is that the message suggests that texting CAUSES lack of sleep.  This is absolutely not true, and it should be fairly obvious to anyone who does not let their kids sleep with their phones.  If the phone is not in the bedroom when the child goes to sleep, the child won’t be tempted to stay up late and text.  However, some children who sleep with their phones (a trend that is more and more common) may end up texting their friends all night long.  But.. other children may be able to handle the phone in their bedroom and still get a good night’s sleep.  See what I mean about how the ad might be misleading?  Texting is not causing the lack of sleep; rather it’s the family’s choice of how to monitor their child and their phone use.

Here are some unfortunate facts about texting, based on research:

  • Texting can lead to lack of sleep, if the phone is in the child’s bedroom.
  • Texting while driving is very dangerous, as it leads to distracted driving.
  • Compulsive texting, over 130 a day (well above the average), can be correlated with poor grades.
  • I in 6 adolescents have received a sext (a sexually suggestive photos sent over a mobile phone)

However, here are some positive research findings about texting:

  • Texting is correlated with better informal writing skills and creative writing
  • Texting has been effective in helping in interventions for obese children, reminding them to watch what they eat.
As I hope you can see, texting in and of itself is not bad.  It’s how adults guide and provide information for children about how to use the tool, or lack thereof, that leads to bad behavior.
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