Does too much texting puts teenagers at risk?

A seemingly harmless method of communication - text messaging on mobile phones could damage teenagers physically and psychologically a new study has revealed.

Researchers say that youth who text too much may suffer from psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, insecurity, low self esteem and physical disorders like "repetitive thumb syndrome." These reports have been released by Boost Mobile, a service provider of the Optus network and show that text messaging had increased by 89 per cent in the last two years with some teenagers sending out more than 400 SMS's per day.

Psychological disorders with texting

Jennie Carroll is a technology researcher from RMIT University in Melbourne who has been looking at the effects of modern forms of communication for the past nine years. On texting she said "it is just what teenagers do with phones." She explained four new terminologies that have come up in regards to excessive texting -

  1. Textaphrenia
  2. Textiety
  3. Post-traumatic text disorder
  4. Binge texting.

Texaphrenia is a disorder that involves hearing texts or imagining the vibrations of the mobile when none occur and also constantly checking the mobile for text messages. Textiety is the anxiety felt when some time lapses and no text has been received, or when the teenagers are unable to send out messages. There is also a deep fear that one has no friends or well wishers who can respond to their messages. These have been likened to schizophrenia and anxiety disorders respectively. Carroll says, "

With textaphrenia and textiety there's a feeling no one loves me, no one's contacted me."

Post-traumatic text disorder involves injuries to the body like stumbling on something or bumping into an object while trying to walk and text simultaneously. There have been serious injuries including road accidents when teenagers suffer from this syndrome Caroll explained. This disorder also has a depression component when there is no response from the other end. She said, "Like walking into things while texting someone and even crossing a road without realizing. Young people are in a bubble doing their communication and focused on that…There were reports from Japan of repetitive thumb syndrome and thumbs growing because of texting."

Binge texting involves sending out multiple texts to give a boost to their self confidence that they have a lot of friends. Caroll explained that, "This is the reverse of the anxiety - you think you've been left out of the loop so you send a lot of texts and wait for responses."

Fake names real behaviors

These names are fake and these disorders are not really "real" but there maybe something in the findings researchers feel. These figures originate from a 2008 report from the School of Psychology and Counseling at the Queensland University of Technology entitled "Over-connected? A qualitative exploration of the relationship between Australian youth and their mobile phones". This report said that mobile phone use especially texting can be addictive.

Positive side to texting

In yet another experiment Dr Paul Zak looked into the effects of texting and communication on the hormone oxytocin level in the body. This hormone is associated with feelings of empathy, generosity, trust, compassion and so on in humans. He along with his colleagues set up an experiment to measure the levels of oxytocin in blood before and after a 10-minute session of tweeting with friends and strangers. Tweeting boosted oxytocin levels by a little over 13 per cent and there was a significant drop in stress hormones. "E-connection is processed by the brain like an in-person connection," he explained.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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