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Teens who text too much are losing speaking skills

12:28 PM, Feb 6, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- When it comes to teens and texting, how much is too much?

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"I text my friends, I text my family, as I'm riding passenger in a car, I text street signs," said Austin Wierschke, a junior from Rhinelander, Wis. and winner of the 2012 U.S. National Texting Championship.

"I've walked into walls, people, a door, lockers, just like not paying attention," said Mary Richard Weiss, a junior at Walton High School in Marietta. 

Mary Richard Weiss admits she texts constantly while in school.

"Probably most of the class periods, like all day basically," she said.

Her mother admits she doesn't like how much time her daughter spends texting.

"It is hard to hear (about her daughter texting in class). The e-mails and calls from her teachers. It is upsetting," said Jenny Long, Mary Richard's mother.

But, complaints from teachers hasn't stopped the texting, because Mary Richard believes she's good at multi-tasking.

"I can get what the teacher is saying and remember it, but still be on my phone at the same time," said Mary Richard.

The larger issue is teens look down so much, they're losing the skills they'd gain from looking up, such as knowing how to have a proper conversation with others, especially adults.

"So, a lot of times kids are giving you one-word answers," said Stacey Dewitt, Founder of Connect With Kids.

"You can tell when people are awkward socially and aren't really able to have a conversation except 'hey'," said Juiliana Lima, a junior at South Forsyth High School.

"There's no eye contact sometimes and that to us, feels like they're not paying attention. They walk out of that room thinking, I don't really like that kid because he's not responding to me," said Dewitt.

The Connect with Kids founder says not knowing how to communicate face-to-face becomes a serious problem in college and job interviews, but it's also just plain bad manners.

"They may not look at it as rude behavior from friend to friend, but the reality is from child to adult, that is rude behavior," said Dewitt.

Mary Richard says she understand that texting with her friends is one thing, but she needs to behave differently around adults.

"In the real world, communication with someone, with a person is more important than texting someone," said Mary Richard.

TIPS FOR IMPROVING COMMUNICATION SKILLS WITH TEENS WHO TEXT

From Stacey Dewitt, founder of Connect With Kids:

1. Teach teens to put down the phone when talking with adults. That means eye contact with any adult and giving them your full attention.

2. Parents should designate time for the family to unplug, like saying "no cell phones at the table."

3. Parents should model good cell phone behavior. We all do it. When someone is talking, WE need to focus. We need to put down our cell phones more often and show our children that cell phones are not that important to you. Certainly, not more than conversation with them.

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