tampabay.com

Teens ace texting proficiency test

By ELISABETH DYER
Published March 9, 2007


I've seen them in class - cell phones strategically poised out of the teacher's sight - appearing to be attentive while texting.

They hide phones behind a classmate or a book or under their desk. It's true. Ask any high-schooler.

Or if you're a parent, note the number of text messages sent on your child's bill. My daughter sometimes sends more than 1,000 a week.

Whatever happened to passing notes?

Paper is no longer required. As in the evolution of humanity, it's now all about the thumb. One thumb does all the work, pressing about 12 buttons. A master can send notes at astounding speeds with great stealth.

From their pockets.

Without even looking.

Or from beneath a desk, with only the briefest glance.

Last semester, students in a class at Blake High School did an informal experiment. They sent a text message to students in other classes to see how fast it went around the school.

It was back in minutes.

Of course, this can all be pretty frustrating for teachers who have to fight for kids' attention.

The district's policy allows students to carry cell phones but not to use them during school hours or on school buses.

Yet teachers are constantly admonishing students, or confiscating phones, which parents must then retrieve.

Interest in the phenomenon is growing at universities, such as Vanderbilt, which is analyzing text-messaging between teens age 13 to 15. For the most part, it's high-schoolers who are texting.

Principal Juanita Underwood at Monroe Middle School says she does not see her students using phones.

At Georgia College & State University, Wayne Glowka studies "Web slanguage," those online and text abbreviations and other expressions.

Teens text in acronyms such as omg, for "oh my god." Often vowels are omitted or words are spelled as they sound, such as "sez" for says, which hardly shortens the workload.

These shorthand terms inch into teens' school work. Sometimes Jennifer Morley, a Blake High social studies teacher, gets assignments with "u r" and "c u."

She sees cell phones as an addiction for some.

"(K)ids refuse to part with them, are trying to look at them every moment, etc.," she wrote in an e-mail.

"I tease them and tell them, if your friend is really your friend, they will contact you later."

Perhaps during their next class.