Experts say texting could hurt socialization

Hand-held electronics and social networking sites are changing the way we do business and communicate with friends and relatives.

But we discovered they're also to blame for new social problems on the horizon.

It's no secret kids text, and they text a lot.

Do you text more than you talk?

"I definitely text more than I talk. I text all the time and sometimes I talk on the phone," said Sophomore Erin Kroeger.

"My friends are definitely more likely to text than call," Senior Kaitlyn VanderMaiden said, "I rarely talk on the phone with my friends."

Many kids will tell you they learn more about their friends' lives by texting or on Facebook than in person. This digital generation concerns some psychologists and doctors, including Dr. Jeffry Evans with the Hannibal Clinic.

Why do you text rather than talk?

"With texting you can do other things at the same time. When you're doing multiple things it's easier to do that instead on concentrate on a phone call. Or when you're supposed to be quiet texting comes in handy," Kroeger said.

Dr. Evans tells us, "These forms of media are impersonal, and these kids do a lot more texting these days than talking face to face, and they tend to be more socially uncomfortable and socially awkward rather than face to face. They're not used to communicating that way anymore."

And while they're not communicating in person, they're also getting more brazen. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Communications and Media, most kids say things via text they would never dream of saying in person.

Psychologists are concerned this is teaching kids to be sort of distant from each other. So the interpersonal connections and socialization may be very different in the future? "Yes, and I already see in some of my teenage patients when I ask them a question, it's obvious that they're not quite used to having a human talk to them," Pediatrician Dr. Dennis Go with Quincy Medical Group said.

And more than likely, parents aren't regulating the use of cell phones.

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"A lot of these media are unmonitored and a lot of issues have arisen as a result of unmonitored communications, especially when you get into older kids and adolescents," said Dr. Evans.

"I don't think they should be worried but they should keep an eye on it," said Sierra Schnack. "I don't think this is a huge problem but for some people it is 24/7 texting all the time, it's easier for us to text them than to call them or find them in person."

So what to do? Set limits on texts, cell phone and computer usage. And make sure to collect cell phones at the end of the day so they do not conflict with homework, family time or sleep. But the most important thing is to practice what you preach.

N ew social issues and problems surrounding technology are always popping up these days, including sexting and cyber bullying.

As always, you can find many more tips and links on the Parenting Tips segment of our website.

Parental modeling is important in training kids to use digital media in moderation.