Characters: Aymara, Giselle, Reggie
Setting: Aymara just sent her friend Giselle a link to an article about texting. Giselle opened the article and she couldn’t believe what she was reading.
Giselle: This professor says we make more mistakes and say things without thinking because of texting.
Reggie: What are you talking about? No professor has been watching me text.
Giselle: (rolling her eyes) Uh, Reggie, when I said “we,” I meant teenagers, not you and me. Anyway, the prof says the problem is that phones figure out what you’re going to type after hitting two or three keys. Now we’re getting too used to phones making decisions for us. That makes us do things with more speed, but also with lots more mistakes.
Reggie: Hmm, yesterday I did send Aymara a text that read, “Hope Valley Day,” when it should have read, “Happy Valentine’s Day.” What’s the article say?
Giselle: You want me to read it out loud? Okay, here goes:
Australian scientists concluded that using text message systems that predict the word before you finish typing increases the likelihood that teenagers will make mistakes. After typing only two or three keys, most phones can predict the word the user is trying to type. And usually the phone is correct. It’s convenient, and it has trained teens to do a lot of things quickly. But teenagers are also making mistakes with more frequency.
Reggie: Yeah, someone’s always pointing out our mistakes. How about writing about how fast we are at typing?
Giselle: Reggie! Let me finish...
In 2009, Professor Abramson conducted a study that was published in the Bioelectromagnetics journal. He studied students between the ages of 11 and 14 and classified frequent users as students who either texted more than 20 times per week (1/4 of students) or who made at least 15 phone calls per week (1/4 of students).
Reggie: In 2009! Did they even have cell phones back then? Twenty times per week is nothing! My BFFs text way more.
Giselle: I know, right? Get this:
In the study, students took tests that were similar to IQ tests. The study concluded that there is a correlation between how often students texted and how fast their pace was as they completed the tests.
Reggie: Correlation? That means something’s connected, right?
Giselle: Kind of, but not necessarily tied together like a cause and effect. They just happen at the same time. Kind of like: I grew taller this week, and my hair grew longer, but growing taller didn’t cause my hair to grow longer. They both happen together, but some other reason causes both of them to happen. According to my mom, that reason is eating disgusting vegetables like broccoli. So this guy is saying that kids who text are likely to speed through the test. Let’s see...where was I...
Professor Abramson said, “The kids who used their phones a lot were faster on some of the tests but were less accurate. We suspect that using mobile phones a lot, particularly tools like predictive texts for SMS, is training them to be fast but inaccurate.” Abramson also claimed that students who used cell phones that predicted words as they typed were observed to do tasks without thinking them through. They were more impulsive. The ratio of wrong answers to total number of answers was greater.
Reggie: Okay, this isn’t cool. My dad better not see this. He already says I’m impulsive because my brain isn’t connected to my body. Now he’ll say that I’m impulsive because my cell phone is guessing what I’m typing. He’s going to unplug me!
Giselle: Well, maybe both are true?
Giselle: Wait, listen to what else Professor Abramson said:
“We don't think mobile phones are frying their brains. If you're used to operating in that environment and entering a couple of letters and getting the word you want, you expect everything to be like that.” He added, “Their brains are still developing so if there are effects then potentially it could have effects down the line, especially given that the exposure is now almost universal. The use of mobile phones is changing the way children learn and pushing them to become more impulsive in the way they behave.”
Reggie: (sarcastically) Nice of the professor to say that my phone isn’t turning my brain into french fries. But I think it’s too much to say that using phones makes teens impulsive.
Giselle: Yep, I agree. I don’t think phones cause us to make other kinds of mistakes either. Say, I wonder what Aymara thinks about this article? She sent it to us. Why don’t you send her a text and ask?
Reggie: (a few minutes later) Hey, Giselle, here is Aymara’s answer:
I don’t believe that an increase in texting is the cause for scores to decrease. There could be some other reasons for this outcome. For example, students who text may have been tired or the test has poor questions. I agree that using cell phones to text does make teenagers do things more quickly and also makes us expect quick responses to our questions. But that doesn’t mean that we are impulsive because we text. There are many teens like me who thoroughly think about things before acting or speaking! By the way, I turned off the “Text Predictor” tool on my phone, so I typed all of the letters in this message! - Aymara.
Giselle: (to Reggie) This is classic Aymara—totally logical and totally opinionated! And she typed every word! Man, this is really long. She must text, like, at the speed of light!
Reggie: Hmm, okay, that’s a good pace. But my thumbs hit the keys so fast, they burn the phone! I’m faster than Aymara.
Giselle: No way. Look, she filled my screen twice, no three times! Can you really beat that?
Reggie: But you don’t even know how long it took her to do the texting! She could’ve taken five minutes! Here, time me for 30 seconds using the timer on your phone.
(Thirty seconds elapse.)
Giselle: ... and STOP! Let me check how you did. Nineteen words in 30 seconds. That’s pretty fast! And I’m sorry but I’m counting LOL as one word. Not three. Okay, let’s figure out your speed: 19 words per 30 seconds. And I can shift that to a per minute rate by doubling. That’s 38 words per minute. For Aymara’s text though, we know she typed a lot, but we don’t know how long it took her. So I guess we don’t know a rate for her.
Reggie: How about sending Aymara a text and tell her to time herself as she texts? Then we can compare our rates!
(Giselle sends Aymara the message.)
Giselle: Aymara is up for the challenge. Look:
Tell Reggie he’s toast. -Aymara, Texting Queen