You’ve gotten your Smartphone and you are loving it. You like to have a computer at your fingertips, have a nice little camera on hand and as a side benefit it has a phone. Very nice. And in all likelihood you’ve gotten very used to the idea of sending text messages. Not so good.

In a conversation with colleagues the other day (real, verbal communication) we were discussing the very serious downsides of becoming too reliant on text messaging to substitute as ‘communication’, which got me thinking; how reliant are we becoming on this? Teenagers, the easiest group to find numbers for, seem to send out 3,417 text messages monthly or about 7 text messages an hour according to a December 2011 Neilson survey. Here’s yet more data about the rise of this form of communication from “We Never Talk Anymore – the Problem with Text Messaging” –

“Americans ages 18-29 send and receive an average of nearly 88 text messages per day, compared to 17 phone calls. The numbers change as we get older, with the overall frequency of all communication declining, but even in the 65 and over group, daily texting still edges calling 4.7 to 3.8.”

What’s the problem you ask? For starters many people, especially younger people it seems, are beginning to believe that such communication is an acceptable substitute for spoken or face to face contact. Since young adults don’t have fully developed social skills yet its easier for them to say more than they intended or to misunderstand what is being said. When you send text messages you miss the tone of the speaker, perhaps the facial expressions if it’s a ‘live’ discussion and other subtle clues you get when you speak to another.

The use of shortcuts for spelling is also beginning to show up in handwritten format given that some who send text messages prefer not to spell out such long words as ‘later’ or ‘thank you.’

Grown-ups, while less likely to use text messaging as a primary form of communication, are perhaps willing to become a bit conversation avoidant. It is far easier to beg out of an obligation via text message than over the phone when you will hear your friend’s disappointment.

Sending/responding to text messages while driving is also becoming a major problem. Driving requires any number of skills and attention to many factors which have all been shown to markedly suffer when text messaging. To be clear we’re talking about seeing and responding to road signs, detecting hazards such as pedestrians and time the driver’s eyes were off the road (AAA Foundation). Many states have passed legislation to make text messaging illegal while driving but only six states currently have it as a primary reason for citation.

If you’re a Thriving parent who is seeking to raise a Thriving child you should know that it is possible to have your cell phone carrier turn off text messaging to a teenager’s phone and that there are devices you can plug into your car to prevent specific phones from being able to use text messaging while the car is operational.

Are there advantages to text messages? Of course! Quick, efficient communication about running late, please bring home milk, arrived safely, etc are all excellent uses for text messages. Like any technology its best to use it in for purposes which will help, not hurt, you in the long run.