Archive for April, 2007

For kids today, why talk when you can send a text? Texting comes with its own language. For some, it’s non-stop.


Published: April 28, 2007 


Tommy Buchel is sleeping soundly in his bed when his vibrating cell phone, tucked under his pillow, suddenly wakes him. 

“RU awake?” the phone says. 

The message is coming from a friend. There is no emergency. 

“I get text messages in the middle of the night,” said Buchel, of Galloway Township. “I’ll have my phone under my pillow, and I’ll wake up at 12:30 or 2:30 in the morning. I’m like, ‘What do you need?’ They just want to talk.” 

Buchel, likes scores of other teens, is a texter — communicating with his friends via short, typed messages on his cell phone. On any given day, the 14-year-old will send up to 20 texts, usually to close friends or his family. 

“I don’t know, I think in a month I send about 200 text messages,” Buchel said. “My one friend, she sends about 2,000 a month. A lot of times, when I text my close friends they’re in trouble or something, grounded from the phone. 

“Or, it’s when they’re in school and can’t really talk,” he said. 

Replacing e-mail 

Text messaging, especially among young people, has become a dominant form of communication, even replacing e-mail and Instant Messenger for some. According to a March survey from Pew Internet & American Life Project, about 63 percent of Americans between the ages 18 to 27 text message. 

“For teenagers, communication is king,” said Gary Rudman, president of GTR Consulting. The company has done nationwide studies on teen buying behavior for companies like MTV and Disney. 

“It’s so absolutely critical that they be in the know at all times,” Rudman said. “If you are out of the loop for whatever reason, you may be missing out on some critical social currency.”

For example, Jenny breaking up with Bobby during fifth-period lunch. 

“With texting specifically, it’s obviously a very mobile thing,” Rudman said. “Teens talk to us all the time about how in class they will be texting. This is a great way to covertly communicate. It’s almost like instant messaging, but you can answer or you don’t have to answer. It doesn’t require as much immediate attention.” 

Buchel’s mother, Shannon Buchel, run’s a children’s party business in Galloway Township called Princess for a Day. She said her teenage employees seem to only respond to text messages. 

“When they ask what time they come in, they text me, they don’t call me,” Shannon Buchel said. “I text them back, because I have no choice. I don’t think they talk on the phone at all. All they do is text message.” 

According to recent data from Virgin Mobile, a company who claims to have more texters then other wireless carriers, 75 percent of their customers aged 15 to 26 text message. Approximately 17 percent of texters send and receive messages more than 21 times a day, and 15 percent said they would choose texting over calling. 

“There is no question that kids originally felt like this was a way to talk privately,” said Jayne Wallace, a spokeswoman for Virgin Mobile. “You don’t have to worry about anyone overhearing your conversation.” 

Character limitation 

Texting does have its limits as far as conversation is concerned. Texters are limited to about 160 characters in a text message. 

And because of that, many texters speak in their own language. 

“For the word ‘why,’ you just put ‘y’ and a question mark,” Tommy Buchel said. 

There are many others: LOL for “laughing out loud,” C U L8tr for “see you later.” 

There are so many, in fact, that one can find numerous online guides to speaking in text message. Even commercials parody the strange language. 

“TISNF!” a young girl angrily says to her mother in a current Cingular Wireless ad, when her cell phone is taken away for too much texting. On the bottom of the screen is the translation: “that is so not fair!” 

“Well … you’re texting is what is … S … NF,” the confused mother bumbles, desperately trying to sound like she gets the lingo. 

Despite the jokes, and studies that claim text messaging may hurt teens ability to communicate effectively, others see it differently. 

“I don’t think it’s eroding personal communication,” Wallace said. “The truth is, when we look at our research, you ask teens what’s the way you communicate the most, and they say in person, still. If you give people multiple ways to communicate, different things will fit at different times.” 

Still, why not just pick up the phone and call someone? 

“Sometimes it is just more convenient,” said Marissa Berkowitz, 19, a sophomore at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Galloway Township. “Even though calling people gets the point across with little to no misunderstanding, text messaging is sometimes more convenient when you’re running to class or someone you need to talk to is not able to pick up their phone.” 

Rudman agreed. 

“You can text ‘Spiderman 3, 3 o’clock.?’ and send that same message to all of your friends,” Rudman said. “Instead of calling each person and saying, ‘Hey Sarah, want to go see “Spiderman-3”?’ Teenagers are all about efficiency.” 

Texting has risen to a sport worthy of competition. Morgan Pozgar, 13, of Claysburg, Pa., recently took first prize in the LG National Texting Championship held in New York.

“I mostly text my friends, I’ll text my dad,” Pozgar said in a telephone interview Thursday. “I don’t know why. Mostly, it’s if I don’t feel like talking, or some people just keep on texting me. In a day, I probably send a few hundred.” 

At the competition, Pozgar had to text phrases that appeared on TV monitors in a 10-second time frame. 

Pozgar won the $25,000 prize — and quickly found herself a media texting star — with her winning phrase of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidoucious!” 

“A lot of the people were older, in their 20s,” Pozgar said. “One of the guys was like, ‘I can’t believe I got beat by a little girl.’” 

“They’re growing up in a world where there’s so many things going on — we call it brain blur — just constantly bombarded by so many things,” Rudman said. “They’re text messaging while watching TV, while playing a game on the computer and doing their homework. Well, that’s a lot of things going on there. They don’t have the time or inclination to work hard on a form of communication. The easier, the better.” 

? — I have a question or I don’t understand 

@TEOTD — At the end of the day 

.02 — My (or your) two cents worth 

2G2BT — Too good to be true 

2MI — Too much information 

411 — Meaning “information” 

4COL — For crying out loud 

AYTMTB — And you’re telling me this because … ? 

ROTFLBO — Rolling on the floor, laughing my butt off 

BF or GF — Boyfriend or girlfriend 

BFF — Best friend forever 

CUL8R — See you later 

GIAR — Give it a rest 

GOI — Get over it 

H2CUS — Hope to see you soon 

He should GIAR and GOI — He should give it a rest and get over it 

HRU? — How are you? 

JMO — Just my opinion 

LTNS — Long time, no see 

MUSM — Miss you so much 

NW! — No way! 

OMG — Oh my God 

PRW or POS — Parents are watching or parent over shoulder 

RUOK? — Are you OK? 

SIG2R — Sorry, I got to run 

TTYL —Talk to you later 

UGTBK — You’ve got to be kidding 

WDYT? — What do you think?

Schools wrestle with cell rules, are phones nuisance or valuable safety net?


Published: April 23, 2007 

By Susan Jacobson | Sentinel Staff Writer

Zachary Grossman mowed lawns and did odd jobs to pay for his cell phone, which was glued to his ear for most of his 30-minute lunch on a recent day at Edgewater High.
“I could live without it, but it would be a lot harder,” said Zachary, a senior at the Orlando school.

Most young people apparently feel the same way. Several national surveys show that up to 80 percent of teens own cell phones, and nearly half use them at school.
To guard against phones interfering with learning, most Central Florida districts prohibit their use during school hours. Skepticism toward these teen toys continues even as parents, teachers and some principals push for looser restrictions.

Next month, the Volusia County School Board is expected to consider whether to relax its rules for middle and high schools and let each campus set its own cell-phone policy.
The change would codify a practice that DeLand High has been experimenting with for about a year. The school allows students to use their phones during class changes and at lunchtime.

Principal Mitch Moyer said his staff decided it was best to treat the students like young adults and trust them to obey the rules. Some teachers even allow pupils working silently on art projects or studying independently in class to listen to music on their iPods. For the most part, the plan has worked, Moyer said.

“We have to have a balance between what the parameters are for what’s acceptable and how to stay in touch with young people,” he said.

Many parents make the case that cell phones are essential in case of an emergency at school. After last week’s shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, phones lit up across the college campus as parents called to learn whether their children were safe.
Gamal Mack of east Orange County said he is glad his son, Omar, a freshman at University High School, had a cell phone when a student was stabbed to death on campus last October. Another student is on trial.

“I was very relieved when he [Omar] called,” said Mack, whose sister graduated from Virginia Tech. “Without these phones, parents may lose their minds in the case of an emergency situation, like what happened at Virginia Tech.”
Sense of comfort
Sally Seidel, chairwoman of the Volusia schools District Advisory Committee, said the Sept. 11 terror attacks convinced her that a cell phone for her daughter was a good idea. Now, she feels a sense of comfort knowing she can contact 14-year-old Heather at DeLand Middle School.

“Those kind of things weren’t happening when my 28-year-old was that age,” said Seidel, a mother of four girls. “We just don’t live in the June Cleaver days anymore. And children sometimes aren’t safe waiting outside of the school grounds anymore.”
Not all school districts agree.

After a rise in cyber-bullying using cell phones, the Palm Beach School Board last month decided to lobby the state to let districts banish the phones. A law passed in 2004 requires Florida districts to let students possess wireless-communications devices on school property and at school functions.

In Milwaukee, however, the school system banned cell phones in January after students used them to summon reinforcements to a brawl. Public schools in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles and Boston forbid cell phones on campus because they cause distractions and can be used to cheat, call in bomb threats and make drug deals.
Various Central Florida school officials have complained in recent years about cell-phone problems: cheating by sending text messages, distracting rings in class and use of phone cameras to photograph students in locker rooms and restrooms.
A year ago, a Lake County teen was accused of using cell phones to call in bomb threats to his high school.
Tough to control
Nonetheless, administrators at many schools say they don’t have the time or the will to police every cell-phone violation. At Deltona High, which has nearly 3,000 students, Principal Gary Marks said teachers and administrators clamp down only on the more egregious violations.

“If we were to write referrals, it would be literally hundreds,” Marks said. “It has become such a pervasive electronic device in our society that it is almost impossible to monitor.”

Seminole schools have a similar philosophy, Superintendent Bill Vogel said. Although the phones are supposed to be out of sight, administrators on each campus have discretion over how violations are handled.

“A lot depends on the circumstances,” Vogel said.

Phones are not the first electronic gizmos to confound the schools, of course. A decade ago, pagers were a prime headache, said Dennis Neal, principal at Heritage Middle School in Deltona.

Rob Anderson, principal of Edgewater High, said it’s hard to clamp down on cell phones without forbidding iPods and other devices because many phones today also act as music players, cameras and personal organizers that share some functions with computers, such as e-mail.

Darrein Pleasant, 14, a seventh-grader at Teague Middle School in Altamonte Springs, said he takes his phone to school but uses it exclusively to keep in touch with his mom.
“I’ll talk to her the whole way walking home,” Darrein said.

To many older students, however, the phone is a much more sophisticated tool.
Edgewater senior George Georgiev, 18, talks on his $600 phone, but he also can download music, shoot videos and text-message friends. He said he earned the money for the device, now about a year old, when he worked as a supermarket bagger.
Already, he is thinking of trading up to a newer phone with more bells and whistles.

“These things age quick,” he said. “Every day, something else comes out.”
Gary Rudman, whose California company, GTR Consulting, specializes in marketing research on kids, teens and young adults, said youths such as Georgiev find it crucial to stay in the loop.

“This is the world they were born into, and they have been on a treadmill trying to keep pace with all the new technology,” Rudman said.

Tom Donohue, professor of mass communications at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, said cell phones help youths stake out their place in the peer pecking order.
‘Declaring status’
“It’s a way of validating yourself on a continual basis,” Donohue said. “It’s a way of declaring status.”

Ken Trump of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based consulting firm, takes a hard line on phones. He said their popularity is no reason to allow them on campus.

“We have rules in the schools banning everything from gum to guns,” he said. “Just because the rules are hard to enforce doesn’t mean you ban the rules.”
Although mothers and fathers would welcome a call from their children during a school emergency, Trump fears hordes of alerted parents getting in the way of rescue operations.

“The last thing you want in the middle of the crisis is a 14-year-old text-messaging on what they think is going on and not paying attention to the adult who’s giving them directions that may save their life,” he said.