Abusing technology

We’ve all heard of tennis elbow (which does not only affect tennis players) and carpal tunnel syndrome, but not many of us would have heard of ‘text thumb’, the repetitive stress injury caused by sending too many text messages. It is said to affect teenagers and young folk more than older people. Go figure.

Even less well known, but perhaps more dangerous, are the ways in which texting is currently being abused. Persons have been sending and reading text messages while driving, and just this past week, police in Ohio in the US arrested a woman who they caught nursing her baby and texting while driving. There is no specific legislation governing texting while driving as there is for talking on a cell phone, but anyone found doing should face a ban.

Recently too, there have been news stories about a new fad called ‘sexting’, which sees cell phone owners exchanging nude photos of themselves via text messages. According to the Washington Post, this is mostly being done by students between the ages of 11 and 17 years old. The report said that cases of ‘sexting’ had not only been found in Seattle, but in at least a dozen states in the US, including New York indicating that it is a problem.

A subsequent survey done among 1,280 teens found that 22% of girls and 18% of boys had sent such photos and some 40% had sent and received sexually suggestive messages.

Text messaging, or texting is the common term for the sending of “short” (originally 160 characters or fewer, including spaces) text messages from mobile phones using the Short Message Service (SMS). It is available on most digital mobile phones and some personal digital assistants with on-board wireless telecommunications. The individual messages which are sent are called text messages or, more colloquially, texts or SMS.

One reason why this mode of communication has caught on and is widely used is that it is cheaper than cell phone calls and more private as well since only the persons sending or receiving the SMS are privy to them whereas, with cell phone calls anyone in the vicinity of the caller can overhear the conversation.

While parents can put firewalls to block their children from accessing certain content online or on television, there is no way to effectively halt ‘sexting’, unless they ban them from using camera phones or cell phones altogether.

What parents ought to be doing is talking to their children about the dangers of ‘sexting’, making sure they are aware of what is appropriate behaviour. They also need to be made aware of the fact that photos sent to a boy/girl friend can be easily forwarded to other people and that such acts can come back to haunt them if not right away, when they are older.

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