Let's start off by quoting from Stephen Carter's Text a Little Less and Think a Little More, which was published by Bloomberg on March 1, 2012. I'll highlight the most egregiously tragic parts, and make some remarks at the end. There is also a CNN video.
If you’ve suspected lately that your family’s mobile-phone bill is driven entirely by your 15-year- old, you are probably right. A recent Nielsen report shows that children aged 13 to 17 average an astonishing 3,417 text messages a month — some 45 percent of all text messages. This breaks down to seven texts every waking hour or roughly one every 8 1/2 minutes...
Certainly a principal reason cited by many teens for their use of texting is that it is fun. In some surveys, young people reported that they prefer texting to conversation. And “prefer” may be too weak a word. Many young people, when not allowed to text, become anxious and jittery.
In recent years, there has been no shortage of reports on television about researchers who say they have found teens addicted to their mobile phones. Perhaps a better way to view the data is as an illustration of how mobile phones in general, and texting in particular, have taken over the experiential world of the young. An economist might expect that teens deprived of texting would simply substitute another method of communication — talking, for instance. As it turns out, a significant minority will not. They will behave instead, researchers report, the way people do when deprived of human contact.
The phone, in other words, is not merely a tool through which teens keep in touch with friends. It is the technology that defines their social circle. If they cannot text someone, that person may as well not exist.
Still, I am not criticizing the technology itself...
Heavy texting has been linked to sleep deprivation among the young, evidently because they somehow feel compelled to respond, even in the middle of the night. Researchers have found correlations between texting and everything from illiteracy to overeating. A 2006 study by James E. Katz of Rutgers University, perhaps the leading academic expert on mobile-phone use, has found that young people have trouble giving up their phones, even for a short time. Most were unable to make it through a two-day experiment designed to discover what they would do without their phones.
And now watch the video from CNN's Can teen texting become an addiction? (You'll probably have to put up with an advertisement at the beginning.)
It's bad enough that the purveyors of this technology are raking in the big bucks by exploiting the overwhelming social needs of teenagers, but that's not the worst part.
The worst part is that researchers have found that the pleasure centers in the tiny little brains of these teenagers light up like a Christmas tree whenever they're texting. These responses look exactly like those of nicotine or opiate addicts. This accounts for the sad fact that teenagers feel "anxious and jittery" when you take the smart phones away, and the even sadder fact that many of these brain-damaged teenagers could not make it through an experiment in which they had to go two days without being able to text.
That's called withdrawal, as any addict who has tried to quit can tell you. Even worse, brain development—the actual wiring of your gray matter—continues throughout the teenage years.
We can therefore talk about a new class of narcotics, called gadget drugs, which are sold legally over the counter in the United States and all over the world. Decades ago in the 1950's and 60's, many books were written about the dangers of television, which became commonplace in American households in the decades after World War II. I think it's fair to say many decades later that some of people's worst fears about this new form of mass media have been confirmed. TV has greatly furthered the creation of a huge population of passive, docile, credulous (easily-indoctrinated) "consumers" in the United States.
But television, as much damage as it has done over the years, is hardly worth mentioning compared to the harmful effects of mobile phones and the uses they're put to. So-called "Progress" marches on. Teenagers would rather have the gadget drug instead of talking with others face-to-face, reading, sleeping, or—God forbid—thinking. Television interfered with "normal" human functioning, but not nearly to this extent. We will know the full extent of the damage caused by obsessive texting a decade from now. No doubt future brain scientists will investigate just how bad the effects have been. It's the human way—mindlessly create a problem, often with profitable technology, and then study the problem to see what, if anything, can be done about it.
By the time somebody figures out just how bad the problem is, it will be far too late to do anything about this catastrophe. It goes without saying that the problem of addiction is not new. The harmful effects of addiction are well understood.
That's the Good News.