Dads2Dads: Do you have a child who’s all thumbs?

Tom Tozer and Bill Black • Updated Apr 24, 2016 at 6:00 PM

Before you jump to conclusions and think this column deals with clumsy or accident-prone children, we’ll clarify. If your adolescent or teenager is a whiz with a cellphone, then no doubt you’re in awe of the way those thumbs fly over the keys and miraculously bang out a message. It truly is almost an art form, in the same category as a magician who flips a deck of playing cards or makes a quarter dance back and forth across his knuckles. What shall we call your young digital wizard? The Manic Messenger? It is a sight to behold.


What if that phone frenzy is an addiction? What if your child has become so attached to that device that life without it seems unmanageable, almost unbearable? It is a fact that some young people have become so obsessed with sending and receiving messages from friends that they literally can’t concentrate on homework or even sleep! 

An article in a recent issue of Nashville Parent magazine cites a study from the Psychology of Popular Media Culture that analyzed data from more than 400 eighth and 11th graders. The findings reveal a link between excessive use of social media and lower grades. The article had even more disturbing news.

“The study shows that texting addiction also includes lying to cover up the amount of time spent texting and, over all, girls text compulsively at a far higher rate than boys do.” Interestingly, the boys did not reflect poorer school performance.

Gotta be in the know

It got us to wondering if comparisons can be made between the drive to be constantly text messaging and the desire for children – perhaps more for girls than boys – to belong to a group, to feel a part of something. Remember how we felt in junior high or high school when a group of kids were talking and laughing together and we weren’t included? Our self-conscious selves knew for sure they were talking about us. We wanted so badly to be in that circle of giggles because suddenly, we could switch from defense to offense and be in the know. Being in the know or at least being part of the know is vitally important to teenagers. It’s not fun to feel left out. We wonder if that is a driving force behind keeping those thumbs moving at warp speed.

Time for intervention

The Nashville Parent article cites findings from a 2012 Pew Internet @ American Life Project. Teens text an average of 60 messages a day, “with older girls having a median of 100 text messages a day and boys a median of 50. Researchers hypothesize that girls’ texts may be more emotional and tied to relationships, causing them anxiety – and more texting.”

An addiction can take control of a person’s behavior. Parents need to set house rules when it comes to cell phone use and make them stick. Withdrawal from any kind of addiction can be difficult, which is why mom and dad need to keep behavior within bounds, and intercept and shut down behavior before it becomes all consuming. 

Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of “Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @dads2dadsllc. Contact them at [email protected].

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