When I was a teenager, I passed notes in class. My best friend and I drew intricate comics of our teachers, folded them up and brushed each others' hands as we shared from desk to desk. I also doodled in class, and as a result my entire yellow folder was covered in scribbles and song lyrics and random patterns. Yet I remember being able to listen despite all the doodling. In some ways, it aided concentration. It didn't seem like a bad thing.
Nowadays, the same thing is happening with texts and Facebook. Teenagers are distracted from the daily activities of the classroom, texting away with their friends and commenting and liking on Facebook instead of passing paper notes and momentarily brushing each others' hands. The rawness of real writing is gone, glossed over with emoticons and Helvetica-fonted letters. Parents of teenagers are concerned about their teens' texting habits. And so they've decided to take a stand (!), with utilities such as Phone Controls, a program that tracks and monitors teens' texting behaviors.
Teenagers will be teenagers - they fall in love and share their passwords. A recent study from Pew showed that texting was on the rise - in 2011, teens sent 60 texts per day, up from 50 in 2009. Today, 75% of teenagers text. For a teenager, 86% of their memories are digital, according to data from 1000memories' Shoebox app. Passing notes in class is way too analog.
SMS is one of the few spaces that a parent will not have access to. Unlike Facebook, where teens are likely to accept their parents' friend requests, texting is private, a space where teens can share their secrets with one another under lock and key.
Safely, a division of Location Labs, recently launched their digital parenting tool Safely Phone Control to Android. Safely says that its "Phone Controls gives parents unprecedented, personalized awareness of how kids use their mobile devices, and the ability to regulate that use." Already, the service has alerted parents to "bad" teen texting behavior, including "late-night texts," "in-school activity" and "forbidden app usage" of Angry Birds and Facebook.
Safely found that 65% of teens send such late-night texts, and 63% text in class. The report also indicates that teens send an average of 2,108 texts per month and download 11 apps per month.
Yet this sort of moderation tool isn't unique to the teen age group. Watching starts younger than adolescence.
Kid social network Everloop, which is aimed at ages 8-13 and designed as a training-wheels social network for the 13-and-older only Facebook, introduced a 24/7 moderated SMS feature, which tracks the words, phrases and content that Everloop has deemed dangerous to kids, including URLs, someone's address, profanity or words that could indicate cyberbullying. Parents have access to this feature, so they receive a notice if that type of content appears on the site.
But the real question for parents of teenagers is: Will technologies like this actually stop teens from engaging in these "bad behaviors"? Most likely, teens who don't care about parental controls will stop - but the rest of 'em will do what they do, and that means acting like an adolescent until they actually grow up.
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.