The terrible burden of having to take a stand

November 12, 2010 by  
Filed under The Lileks Zone

A story on Slate on a study – the most exciting words in the world, perhaps? Here’s the latest:

Sex, drugs, and text-messaging? A new study suggests that “hyper-texters”—teens who send more than 120 text messages a day—are more likely to binge drink, get in fights, or take drugs, and are three and a half times more likely to have sex than their textless peers. Researchers looked at more than 4,200 students at 20 Cleveland high schools, categorizing kids as hyper-texters or hyper-networkers—people who spend at least three hours a day on social networking sites. While hyper-texters are more sexually active, hyper-networkers are more prone to drinking and fighting.

Most people would look at this survey, and say: hmmm. Interesting. Can we draw any conclusions? Perhaps not; correlation is not causation. Or the other way around. Something like that. Anyway, it’s part of a larger problem that has little to do with technology, and a lot to do with parenting. When it comes to gadgets, most kids are light-years ahead of their parents. Put in nerd-Trek terms, the kids are in the Delta Quadrant, and Mom and Dad haven’t yet left Earth’s gravity well, which means they can’t engage warp drive; if you use the interdimensional resonance of a dilithium-crystal powered engine to establish a subspace field while you’re in a gravity well, it’s BLACK HOLE CITY, PEOPLE -

Sorry. Got off topic. You get the idea. You may also suspect I am up on tech, since people who are versed in fictional tech usually eat up the real thing with rapacity. My daughter is cursed with a father who knows just enough to know what he needs to know, and how to defeat any future end-runs around my mad skillz. But I don’t think that day will come, he said, speaking like someone who’s never raised a teenager, because we have laid the groundwork: trust, communication, verification, consequences. Daddy got root.

If you’re not up on these things, it can be baffling and annoying; it can seem so irrelevant to your own life, your own modes of communication, and you decouple from the world of texts and IMs and DMs, contenting yourself with a hazy gauzy assumption that your kid is a good kid, and wouldn’t do anything wrong. You may be right. The survey seems somewhat ill-conceived anyway – it’s not the texting that makes kids promiscuous or more inclined to introduce chemical enhancements, it’s the culture in which they marinate that has few peer-established roadblocks. It’s not that kids necessarily want to do the bad things, but their culture is incapable of saying they shouldn’t. That would be uncool, judgmental, wack, uptight, L-7, Herbert. Hence the confusion and miseries of adolescence. Nothing new there.

What’s amusing, in a sad, sad way, is watching putative adults grapple with the story while trying hard not to be Dad. Engadget had the stupidest piece EVAR, as they’d say. Headline:

Study finds that text message-addicted teens more likely to have a life

According to a recent study lead by Dr. Scott Frank, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, kids in Cleveland who text over 120 times a day are more likely than to have had sex or to have used drugs or alcohol than kids who don’t send as many messages. We’re guessing it’s because it takes in excess of 120 text messages for kids to line up their drugs, alcohol, or sex partners.

Uh huh. Sex, drugs, alcohol = a life. A more perfect distillation of the snarky, hip internet attitude you won’t find. My stance is more important than where I’m actually standing. It’s like watching someone attempt to confront a moral issue while quaking in terror of people in the comments who might accuse him of being unrealistic or a prude or thinking everyone doesn’t do it cuz evry1 doez LOL. Perhaps a fellow might expect to be called into the office to explain why he said texting teens were more likely to engage in immoral activity – we don’t do Bible stuff here, ‘kay? Saying that sex & drugs = “having a life”? Not unless anyone complained.

One can only say: dude, wait until you have kids of your own. I know, I know, it’s all relative, every generation says the same thing about the previous, and so on. Why, people protested Elvis’ hips! But I guarantee you Elvis was sitting in a stupor in Graceland one night, tuning through the TVs, and came across something he found a bit risque. “That’s allright,” he probably thought. “But they ain’t’n’t ought to put it on the TV.”

Comments

3 Responses to “The terrible burden of having to take a stand”
  1. Nick Stuart says:

    Get the kid a prepaid zero-frills phone, buy the cheapest card you can that will give you 1 year w/o reloading. The kid now has a phone to use in emergencies and if you need to talk to them (don’t worry, they’ll never pick up if you call so you won’t burn any minutes that way). If the kid loses the phone you don’t have to worry about someone calling Burkina Faso on your dime. If they burn the minutes, make them come up with the coin to reload.

    If they can’t discipline themselves with the X-Box or PC, lock it in the trunk of your car.

    Don’t subscribe to cable.

    Worked for us (parents of five [one disabled, the other 4 graduated from high school to the military to further their education and figure out what they wanted to do with their life]. Did I mention we home schooled?

    My kids nicknamed me “The Czar.” People think that’s supposed to make me uncomfortable (being authoritarian and all that). I just smile when one of the kids would complain about one of my edicts and say “That’s why they call me The Czar.” :=)

    • Les Rankins says:

      The smartest thing I ever heard about parenting came from Dennis Prager “Your kids will end up hating you no matter what you do – so you might as well to the right thing.”

    • Peter Ford says:

      An informal observation at my very urban public school: the students who I have that almost run into walls because they’re texting constantly, the ones who beg teachers to plug in their smartphones to recharge at lunch because they’ve burned the battery down before the end of the day, are those whose academic performance hardly scratches the surface of the 2.0 GPA Mendoza Line. They are the students who spend every free moment, and often their academic moments, planning the next party or recovering from last night’s.

      As I think about it even more, there does seem to be an inverse correlation between academic performance and obsession with cell-phone/smartphone use in school, as well as a correlation between those who text incessantly and we suspect of being the ‘party crowd.’

      My only hope for many of them is at least in 5-7 years they say to me, “I wish I had listened to you,” or “I finally figured it out.”

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