Text first, think later: Predictive text makes teens even more impulsive

Scientists reckon predictive texting is making kids act faster, but with less thought. Impulsive teenagers? Hold the front page!

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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Scientists -- what would we do without them? -- reckon that predictive texting teaches children to act first and think later. New research suggests that increased use of mobile phones such as the Nokia 5530 is making kids more impulsive and less thoughtful.

Researchers at Monash University, Melbourne tested a selection of kids aged between 11 and 14, with a quarter of the group making more than 15 calls a week and a quarter sending more than 20 texts a week. Only 20? Strictly amateur. The kids then took IQ-related tests.

Those teens with busier thumbs completed the tests more quickly, but less accurately. Professor Michael Abramson suspects predictive texting is to blame, suggesting that repeated use of this quick-fix technology is making the yoot more impulsive: "If you're used to operating in that environment and entering a couple of letters and getting the word you want, you expect everything to be like that."

While we probably wouldn't have needed an academic research budget (although we wouldn't say no) to point out that teenagers are impulsive and often act without thinking of consequences, we can't help but resist this kind of kids-are-getting-thicker-A-levels-are-getting-easier-it-were-all-fields-round-here-when-I-were-a-lad media coverage. Texting may be changing the way kids develop, but we grew up with pocket calculators and spellcheck and that never harmed our impulse control and our spelling is just fne thankz.

The research appears in a paper entitled 'Mobile telephone use is associated with changes in cognitive function in young adolescents' in science journal Bioelectromagnetics. We warn you, it's slightly longer than 160 characters.