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Is 2 much txtng bad 4 u? Staying connected can take a tort--on your thumbs and on your mind.

You probably do it rate at night when your parents re asleep. You do it in restaurants and white crossing the street. You do it in the hallway, in between classes. You do it so much that your thumbs may hurt.

Spurred by unlimited texting plans, American teens sent and received an average of close to 2,300 texts per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Nielsen Company--more than double the average of a year earlier.

This phenomenon worries physicians and psychologists, who say it is reading to anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive-stress injury, and steep deprivation. And texting white driving can be deadly: A recent study found that when drivers texted, their collision rate was 23 times higher than when not texting.

ACHING THUMBS

Sherry Turkle, a psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who's been studying texting among teenagers in Boston, says it may be causing a shift in the way they develop.

"Among the jobs of adolescence are to separate from your parents and to find the peace and quiet to become the person you decide you want to be," she says. "Texting hits directly at both those jobs."

Teenagers normally break free from their parents as they approach adulthood. Now, says Turkle, "You have adolescents who are texting their mothers 15 times a day, asking things like, 'Should I get the red shoes or the blue shoes?'"

As for peace and quiet, she says, "If something next to you is vibrating every couple of minutes, it makes it very difficult to be in that state of mind."

Texting may also take a toll on thumbs. Annie Wagner, a 10th-grader in Bethesda, Maryland, can text on her tiny LG phone as fast as she types on a regular keyboard. A few months ago, she noticed painful thumb cramping.

It's too early to tell whether this type of stress is damaging, says Peter Johnson, a professor of health sciences at the University of Washington. But based on injuries in computer users, he says, "we have some reason to be concerned that too much texting could lead to temporary or permanent damage to the thumbs."

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14,000+ A MONTH

Some parents are starting to take measures. Greg Hardesty, a reporter for The Orange County Register in Lake Forest, California, says that his 13-year-old daughter, Reina, racked up 14,528 texts in one month--even keeping her phone on, on vibrate, after going to bed.

Hardesty wrote a column in the Register about Reina's texting, and with all the attention that followed, her monthly volume soared to 24,000 messages. Finally, when her grades plunged, her parents confiscated the phone.

Reina's grades have since improved, and she has her phone back. But her text messages are limited to 5,000 per month--and none between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays.

Yet she says there's an element of hypocrisy in all this: Her mother is hooked on her own cellphone.

"She should understand a little better because she's always on her iPhone," Reina says. "But she's all like, 'Oh well, I don't want you texting.'"

Katie Hafner writes about technology for The New York Times.

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Title Annotation:TECHNOLOGY
Author:Hafner, Katie
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 5, 2009
Words:534
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