Friday, December 10, 2010

Texting toward Gomorrah?

I read a recent blog in Education TechNews about student texting.  It cited a study from Case Western Reserve whichindicated that
  • 20% of Cleveland high school students are “hyper-texters”, sending and receiving more than 120 messages a day.
  • Hyper texters “are more likely to engage in sex and use alcohol and drugs.”
The blogger muses that “banning phones (and thereby texting) at school may curtail potentially harmful behavior after school.”  I had a couple of reactions to this:

1) I think students (and many adults) are obsessive about their mobiles.  Their need to stay connected through texting or other forms of social media does interfere with face-to-face communication and leads to other bad habits. I teach in a 1-1 school, and while we still ban mobiles from classrooms, I’ve found that  at critical times I’ve been forced to ask students to close their laptops, because even though they are avid electronic communicators, they cannot be relied upon to check online assignment calendars or even their school email.  It’s a strange paradox, but I’m not ready to say, “anything goes” in terms of permitting students to be plugged in every minute of every school day.

2) I am somewhat skeptical about a cause and effect relationship in the correlation between hyper texting and sexual activity, drinking, drug use.  I am guessing that “banning phones” during the school day will have negligible effect on reducing such behavior.  After all, the technology is already deeply embedded in the culture, and I find that adults in my professional development groups are as likely to get distracted by their screens as my students.

I think we are talking about a life skill, here.  As a culture we could benefit greatly from learning a code of behavior related to our mobiles:   What is socially impolite?  How do I know when I am offending others?  How did we signal by our social cues that it’s time for others to unplug?  How can we recognize these cues.  Ideally, what is called for is a school culture that reinforces good habits rather than a special course that “teaches” these skills or rules that simply try to shut usage down.  
What do you think?

Flickr CC photo by Jamie Heimbuch

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