The Pros and Cons of Texting and IM by Kelley Loftis
January 8, 2009
Text messaging and instant messaging have become so widely used by teens that teachers have noticed a
drastic change in students’ writing habits. Students are integrating the abbreviations that are used in texting or
instant messaging into their school work. It is becoming such a problem that teachers must explain why using
the shortcut language is not acceptable in the business world.
Not only has texting and instant messaging caused a laziness in language, it has also created issues in other
areas of teenagers’ lives.
Texting while driving is a serious issue that is causing accidents and deaths. Other issues that texting has
created are cheating during tests, distractions and disruptions during class time, as well as having the potential
for spreading community rumors. Although the concept of being able to communicate easily with others has
drastically improved with the introduction of text messaging and instant messaging, the implications tend to be
negative. We have to ask ourselves: Is the benefit of the technology worth the distraction?
According to webopedia.com, text messaging is “sending short text messages to a device such as a cellular
phone, PDA or pager. Text messaging is used for messages that are no longer than a few hundred characters.”
(Jupitermedia, 2008) Instant messaging, while different than text messaging, is similar. Instant messaging is
defined on webopedia.com as “abbreviated IM, a type of communications service that enables you to create a
kind of private chat room with another individual in order to communicate in real time over the Internet,
analogous to a telephone conversation but using text-based, not voice-based, communication.” (Jupitermedia,
If you spend any time with teenagers, you will witness their fascination with texting and instant messaging.
These technologies give teens access to their friends 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is not surprising that
texting and related technologies have become so popular. What is surprising is how irresponsible this technology
is making many teenagers. Gone is the ability to put the phone down and get work done. It is very scary what
teens will do while texting. Driving while texting? Why not? It is not like you need to concentrate or anything.
With the introduction of texting, and other such technologies, teachers have noticed that writing skills are
decreasing and use of cell phones and texting is becoming a nightmare to control in school settings. Students
are getting crafty with texting and even using their cell phones and texting to cheat. Other negative side effects
of texting include physical harm or death to self or others, discipline issues at school, as well as creating panic
over unexplained information.
While it is plain to see that texting technology has its share of negative effects, not all aspects of texting are
negative. Parents can use text messaging to determine if their child needs a ride home. Other parents use
texting to determine the location of their child. Families may use texting to communicate instead of calling each
other. While it is agreed that there are always positives and negatives to any situation, in this case the negatives
seem to outweigh the positives. The question then becomes: Are the benefits worth dealing with the
A Survey of Teens
To get a better idea of the effects of texting on teenagers and how much this technology was actually being
used, a survey was conducted in Sanford, NC. Sixty-five students at Southern Lee High School were asked
questions about their usage of texting and instant messaging. To ensure the honesty of the answers, the surveys
were anonymous and the students were told that their answers would not be used against them. The students
were asked the following questions:
Do you text message or instant message or both?
How many hours a day do you text message? How many text messages do you send in a day?
How many hours a day do you instant message? How often do you instant message?
Do you text message while in school? How many text messages do you send in a normal class period? (1 hour
and 30 minutes)
Have you ever used text messaging to cheat on an assignment or test? If so how often?
Accidents Attributed to Text Messaging
In this age of technology, people will do anything to stay connected. In the last several years, the number of text
related accidents have increased. “…the American College of Emergency Physicians warns of the danger of …
serious accidents involving oblivious texters.” (Aleccia, 2008) People have been injured walking, skating and
even riding Segways while texting at the same time. The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission states that
there is no known national estimate on the number text-related injuries. Many people do not want to admit that
they injured themselves while texting. “But since 2005, the agency has received at least seven reports of serious
texting mishaps, including a 15-year-old who fell off her horse while texting, suffering head and back injuries, and
a 13-year-old girl who suffered belly, leg and arm burns after texting her boyfriend while cooking noodles.”
Unfortunately, not all people who have texted while doing another activity have survived. “A San Francisco
woman was killed by a pickup truck earlier this year when she stepped off a curb while texting, and a Bakersfield
man was killed last year by a car while crossing the street and texting.” (Aleccia, 2008) It was also reported that
a 13-year-old boy in Florida was killed “after he stepped into the path of a car while looking down and text
messaging on his cell phone.” (local6.com, 2008)
Even the most deadly train crash in 15 years has been attributed to text messaging. Although the reports are not
finalized, the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports “suggest that the
engineer was text messaging on a personal communications device minutes before the wreck.” (DeLeon, 2008)
It is too early to determine if the text messages were the sole cause of the crash, but it is safe to say that the text
messages probably distracted the engineer which very well may have lead to the collision. Twenty-five people
were killed in this incident and 130 people were injured.
All of these injuries and deaths have contributed to, and will continue to contribute to, the laws that have been
passed about texting and talking on cell phones. West Virginia, Arizona, Louisiana, Delaware, Iowa, Virginia,
Ohio and Pennsylvania have all tried to ban talking while driving but have fallen short. Also, Rhode Island, New
York, New Hampshire, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Maryland have all tried to ban texting while
driving, but have also failed. (DeLeon, 2008) Several states have been successful at enforcing a ban on using
wireless phones and other devices while driving. Those states include California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New
York, and Washington and Washington DC. (DeLeon, 2008) Baltimore city has been successful at banning all
13,000 employees from talking or texting even if the phone has Bluetooth® technology. Baltimore officials say
that they want their employees to set a good example. (DeLeon, 2008).
It is easy to see that if adults can be distracted by text messaging, teens may be even more distracted.
According to several studies by insurance companies, distractions in general are the leading cause of teenaged
crashes, not drunk driving as so many thought. “Auto accidents are the leading cause of teenager deaths in the
United States. The National Safety Council, calling the issue a ‘national crisis,’ noted that 44% of all teen deaths
result from crashes each year; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted that nearly 6,000 teens
are killed each year, with more than 300,000 teens injured.” (Brewer-Cavanaugh, 2007) Laurette Stiles, Vice
President of Strategic Resources for State Farm Insurance Cos., states “teens are driving today with so many
distractions and dealing with a number of different issues, making it really difficult for them to focus on driving.”
A survey was released in the July issue of Seventeen magazine by the AAA (American Automobile Association)
stating that an “alarmingly high number” of teens talk and or send text messages while driving. Also, a 2007
Liberty Mutual/SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) survey stated that “while 37% of teens find text
messaging “very” or “extremely distracting” to their driving they still do it.” (Brewer-Cavanaugh, 2007) This
correlates well with the survey conducted at Southern Lee High School. Although 45 of 65 students, or 69.2
percent of students realize the danger of texting while driving, 22 of 65, or 33.8 percent of students still do it.