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Teen columnist: How texting can stunt your growth

Cell phones have altered existing friendships, changing things to fight about and ways to fight.

Cell phones have altered existing friendships, changing things to fight about and ways to fight.

Parents worry about how much time their kids spend talking to friends.

My mom once told me that she and her best friend in high school would talk on the phone for hours every night and recap the day’s events, much to her father’s annoyance.

Fast forward 30 years, and my friends and I take it to the extreme by having a constant running commentary of our days, sneaking cell phones under desks or behind books.

This huge influx of communication is not going to turn teens into zombies, I promise.

But here’s where you can worry: The introduction of technology that was designed to make communication so much easier has actually stunted our social growth, in that teens never have to learn how to handle uncomfortable situations in an effective and polite way.

Meeting new people has obviously been revolutionized by online dating, and a similar effect has trickled down to high school students via MySpace and Facebook.

Friend requesting a cute stranger is a simple way to get the conversation flowing – with a cheat sheet of his or her interests at your fingertips.

But virtual witty banter makes the first in-person meeting all the more awkward; meeting someone you pretty much already know.

Cell phones have also altered existing friendships, changing things to fight about and ways to fight.

Here’s the scenario: You want to text a friend and gossip about how annoying Emily is, and in your haste accidentally send the tell-all text message to Emily herself. There’s no way to recover from that.

Cue battle scene music, except no part of this feud will be fair. Both sides will inevitably be on the phone with a consultant who is helping to craft a perfect response to every zinger.

Fights will also inevitably develop when you have a friend who spends all of her face time with you texting someone much cooler.

Teens can easily wiggle out of any potentially uncomfortable situation with the use of cell phones.

Any time things are starting to get awkward at a party, simply “receive a phone call” and revert into a corner to begin faking an extensive he said-she said conversation.

And, of course, there’s the infamous breakup text, or the act of making dates or asking people out via cell.

The constant connections of my generation have many positive aspects, but what they alter about teens’ social development is considerable as well.

Dealing with new people and unfamiliar situations is something we all have to handle, but my generation will have considerably less experience in that arena than earlier ones.

And when it comes time to join the work force with generations who didn’t grow up in the same world we did, a text message saying that you’re interested in the position simply won’t cut it.

And that’s awkward.

Leigh Jensen is a sophomore at Canyon del Oro High School. E-mail: leighajensen@gmail.com

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