Being able to text a short message to someone is a blessing of the times. It works when you can't pick the phone up and call, when you are in an environment where speaking is not appropriate and in a lot of situations. Like any other useful technological feature, young people find uses for it to suit their life style. In my medical practice I started seeing teens who were texting 5 to 6000 times per month when texting plans had not even been invented by the phone companies. Now, those appear to have been ancient times. With unlimited texting plans, and parents losing control of their children's phone usage, texting continues to reach new highs. The Pew Research Center published a study earlier this year about increasing texting use in teens. Click here to read: Pew Research Center Study on Teens and Texting
One of my teen patients recently told me there were some very important people texting her at 2 in the morning and she HAD to respond. Come to find out it was her suspicious controlling boyfriend checking on her. One sleep problem solved.
Anecdotes aside, my concern as a sleep doctor is that the frequency of use and obsessive use, particularly during sleeping hours, interferes with a teen's ability to sleep restfully, keeping them on the edge, waiting for the phone to buzz, then alerting themselves to read and respond. Adrenaline levels, blood pressure, anxiety levels, moodiness, complaints of being tired all the time and many physical symptoms worsen with these habits, and are frequently overlooked. Often the adults in the household are not even aware of this behavior.
As I have written before, there is solid science supporting the observation that lack of sufficient good quality sleep leads to weight gain, behavior issues and accelerated aging; It triggers headaches, dizziness and even fainting besides making all kinds of existing physical problems worse.
I spoke to the local Sacramento radio channel KFBK today on this subject. Click here to listen: Teens and Texting on KFBK Radio 06-13-2012