Since the dawn of mankind, humans have relied on various forms of communication to interact with one another and develop social skills. Since the appearance of the proverbial Cro-Magnon man, which is typically portrayed as a hairy grunting version of the human form, human beings have continued to develop increasingly sophisticated forms of communication. Human communication has taken many forms over the past centuries, face-to-face, written, smoke signals, telegraph, Morse code, sign language, radio, telephone, e-mail, and most recently, cell and satellite phone. As time has passed, so too has the sophistication of the communication methods human beings have employed. With all this emphasis on increasingly high tech methods for communication, some argue that certain methods may have negative social implications. In particular, some believe that communication methods that eliminate human contact, such as e-mail, internet chatting or SMS texting, can adversely affect social development. Heavy reliance on text messaging in particular has seemed to cause the most concern regarding negative impact on social development. In order to gain a more thorough understanding of this argument, it is necessary to gather relevant research and analyze the findings of notable scholarly researchers. Doing so will effectively shed light on the issues surrounding text based communication and social development.
Impeded Social Development due to Excessive SMS Text Messaging
One main school of thought has gained increased prevalence in recent years as to the effect of SMS texting as a sole communication method on social development. Specifically, many researchers contend that adolescents and teens are at the greatest risk of experiencing social development issues as a result of excessing SMS texting based communication.
Unfortunately, this perceived issue is thought to be amplified by the fact that teens and adolescents are considered to be the most fervent users of SMS text communication. Jeffrey Kluger noted in a recent article for Time Magazine that developmental psychologists studying the impact of texting worry especially about young people, not just because kids are such promiscuous users of the technology, but because their interpersonal skills are still forming at this stage of development (Kluger, 2012). Other research appears to back up this claim.
In particular, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Plymouth found that young people who relied heavily on texting appeared to remain deeply entrenched with a narrowly defined close group of friends in uninterrupted text contact (Reid & Reid, 2004). This indicates a somewhat perplexing paradox when compared to traditional social behaviors inherent in teens and adolescents. Young people within these groups are typically known for craving and actively seeking social interaction in the form of dating, school dances, extracurricular activity and involvement in social groups. This increased reliance on SMS text messaging appears to have turned young people away from more holistic forms of communication. An article for the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles expands further into the implications associated with excessive texting and social development (Anderson, 2011). This article goes into significantly more detail into the main contributing factors inherent in excessive texting that directly leads to issues with social development in teens and adolescents.
Specifically, poor sleeping habits, antisocial behavior, self-esteem issues, cyber bullying, sexting, and addiction to texting are all negative ramifications inherent in text messaging that directly affect social development (Anderson, 2011). Due to the age group of the individuals most susceptible to impaired social development as a result of excessive texting, the solution to the problem seems quite simple. Most of these individuals live at home with their parents, who most typically pay the phone bill. As such, parents need to step up and monitor their adolescent and teen children’s use of texting as a form of communication.
Setting limits is critical to ensuring that these individuals do not suffer the consequence of stifled social development, as this will likely affect them for many years into the future (Anderson, 2011). Ultimately, as long as parents remain involved and thoroughly engaged in their child’s cell phone and text message usage, the potential risk of stunted social development will be effectively mitigated.
- Anderson, K. (2011, January 17). Teens & texting: Setting boundaries. Retrieved from Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles: http://www.wetreatkidsbetter.org/2011/01/teens-texting-setting-boundaries/
- Kluger, J. (2012, September 6). We Never Talk Anymore: The Problem with Text Messaging. Retrieved June 22, 2013
- Reid, D., & Reid, F. (2004). Insights into the Social and Psychological Effects of SMS Text Messaging. Plymouth, United Kingdom: University of Plymouth.