Text Context (Don Ward)

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

It's part of teen culture. It's a very dangerous part of teen culture.


Texting is an everyday part of life for teens, maybe an every moment part of life for teens.

Oprah's "No Phone Zone" campaign, launched yesterday, has prompted a lot of talk about the text.  Here's the link if you want to sign the pledge.  http://www.oprah.com/questionaire/ipledge.html?id=4

Some surveys show at least a quarter of U.S. teens, 16 to 17 years old admit to texting while they drive.  Those are the ones who admit it.  Adults do it too, we've all seen it.  It just seems that for teens, the phone is an extension of the hands, and the text is an extension of the conversation. 

As adults this is difficult for us to understand because we didn't grow up doing it.  I'm not raising any teenagers but I have several friends who are.  A couple of years back one friend told me that the cell phone statement showed that his oldest daughter was sending or receiving 10 or 12 thousand texts a month.  10 or 12 THOUSAND.  300 to 400 a day.  That is almost constant communication by text. 

Last year 5,780 victims died in the U.S. in distracted-driving related crashes.  Clearly texting is not the only form of distracted driving,  but it's got to be among the most dangerous.  I fully admit that I'm not very good at text messaging. It takes me a long time to make the message happen.  I can't even imagine trying to do it while I'm driving. I can barely do it sitting on the couch. 

Teenagers are much better at it than me, they're thumb-wizards whipping out slang-filled notes quicker than many of us can type.

They're still not good enough at it to do it while they drive. 

You have to look at that tiny screen which means you're not looking at the road.  When a text comes in from a friend, teens are no doubt tempted to read it, react to it and respond to it without hesitation simply because it's part of their communications culture.  We can understand that..but it seems we have to try to help them break  the dangerous in-the-car part of the habit.  One study apparently showed that any one of us is 23 percent more likely to crash while texting and driving than while simply driving. 

As a reporter over the years I've been to countless accident scenes, many of them involved teenaged victims, killed or injured.  It's hard to imagine what their families an friends go through for years after those crashes. There will be more..one survey said texting activity in our nation increased more than 100 percent last year.  Some of that is happening behind the wheel.

AAA has the following suggestions we can all pass along to the teens in our lives:

Don't be tempted: turn off your cell phone. Let voicemail capture your voice and text messages.

If you have to call or text while driving, pull off the road safely and stop.

Recognize that text messaging can be a habit. Get support from your friends by letting them know you are working on breaking the texting habit.

If you think you will still be tempted to text and drive, put your phone somewhere you can't reach it, like the trunk.

Take control of your cell phone, don't let it control you. You are the only one who decides when and if you send and read a text message.


I'm not trying to pick on teenagers. They've always had their own idiosyncrasies, they always will.  It just seems that rarely have teens developed a habit, verging on an addiction, that puts them and others in such undeniable danger.  10 to 12 thousand text messages a month!

Will it wear off when today's teens grow a little older?  The other day I saw a young girl, maybe 8 or 9 years old.  She was riding her bike...and she was texting.

We'll talk again soon...but not by text.

Don Ward

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