Are Texting Teens More Polite?

Jeanne Sager

textingI was sitting in front of my computer typing away when my phone went off.

It was a text message from my teen babysitter who was upstairs in my house with my daughter and her playdate buddy. 

Did I mention I work from home?

Until you have one, you figure those stories of teens sending thousands of texts in a month are one-offs, overly dramatic.

Then you meet the usually level-headed, incredibly bright teenager who texts you from the second story of the same building.

I answered her by yelling up the stairs.

But a story in this past week's Washington Post might explain why this kid who I consider "going places" texted me rather than yell down to me or walk downstairs.

The text, today's kids think, is more polite because they aren't interrupting your day with a lengthy phone conversation.

Where a text can be taken at any moment, takes seconds to read, and can be easily responded to without breaking one's train of thought, a phone call takes at least a minute's commitment.

Between 2005 and 2009, researchers found data messaging ballooned by 1,840 percent while the length of voice calls dropped from 2.38 minutes in 1993 to 1.81 minutes in 2009.

No doubt the improvement of phones made a difference -- who wanted to text prior to the QWERTY keyboard? The ubiquity of towers has changed that too -- especially here in the sticks.

Just five years ago my brother was still in high school, and he wouldn't have had service at his school if my parents had given him a phone. Today's teens at the same school all have a phone.

There's also the ease of use. As a sitter, she was responsible for watching my daughter and the playdate at that moment in time. I'm comfortable with her walking down the stairs and leaving two 5-year-olds alone for a few moments, but she didn't see a need to.

Nor did she want to interrupt me as I work from home. Her job is primarily to keep my daughter occupied and out of my hair.

By texting me, she accomplished her goal: an answer to her question ... on my terms.

I've laughed at her about it for weeks, and now I'm forced to admit: she was ... polite.

I'm still not ready to hand my 5-year-old a cell phone, but watching this teen with a cell phone all summer has certainly made me evaluate my texting biases.

Do you find texting has made your kids more polite?


Image via kiwanja/Flickr

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