February 23, 2009
Excessive Text Messaging, a mental illness?
... Although it's too early for conclusive data on the effects of prolific texting -- on attention span, social life, writing ability, family connections -- questions abound, even as many experts point to clear benefits, reports The Washington Post.
Nationally, more than 75 billion text messages are sent a month, and the most avid texters are 13 to 17, say researchers. Teens with cellphones average 2,272 text messages a month, compared with 203 calls, according to the Nielsen Co.
The tap, tap, tap of connectivity can benefit teenagers at a time in life when they cannot always get together in an unscheduled way. Texters are "sharing a sense of co-presence," said Mimi Ito of the University of California at Irvine. "It can be a very socially affirming thing."
Some experts say there are downsides, starting with declines in spelling, word choice and writing complexity. Some suggest too much texting is related to an inability to focus.
The American Journal of Psychiatry published an editorial last year by psychiatrist Jerald J. Block, suggesting that addiction to the Internet and text messaging be included in the diagnostic manual for mental illnesses (compulsive-impulsive spectrum disorder).
Picture above: Pam Zingeser relaxes with her daughter Julie, 15, and their dog, Tucker. Julie, who racked up more than 6,000 text messages in one month, sends a quick text. (By Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)
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