Does Too Much Texting Make You Shallow?

Kara Powell | Feb 16, 2012

Does too much texting make you shallow?

According to one study performed by the University of Winnipeg on college students ages 18-22, the answer is perhaps.

Heavy texters do seem to be a little more materialistic and less concerned about inward growth, said Paul Trapnell of the University of Winnipeg in Canada.

Frequent texting is ‘weakly correlated with traits, goals, and attitudes that indicate low interest and engagement in reflective thought, he added…

Adolescents who texted more than 100 a day were 30 percent less likely to believe leading an ethical, principled life was important.

Before we rush to throw our teenagers’ cell phones out the window, it must be noted that it’s not clear to me that texting actually does MAKE a person shallow. It might be that those who text already are less likely to lead an ethical life. Or it might be that those who are less ethical are more likely to text. (In research speak, that means we can’t assert a direction of causality from the research.)

But I think this research, along with other studies that have been discussed in previous blogs about some of the negative effects of social networking, should make those of us who care about teenagers wonder: what can we do to make sure their use of media and technology does more good than harm?

Let’s break that big question into 2 fundamental questions that you can ask as you think about teenagers you know:

1. In what ways does their use of texting help them?

2. In what ways does it hurt them?

Now lay these two questions across the various facets of students’ lives - their relationships with friends, their family, their church, and their God. In other words, ask: in what ways does their use of texting help their relationships with their friends? In what ways does it hurt their relationships with their friends? And so on.

Depending on your relationships with these teenagers, you might even be able to involve them in the discussion.

Based on your reflection, how would you want their use of texting to change? How can you talk to them about some of your hopes?

OK, now here are a few final questions that you might want to talk about with students also: Are there parts of your (as an adult) texting and use of technology that are damaging your relationships that you likewise need to change? What will you do about that?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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