A Kenyon College administrator details the trends that are creating “therapeutic universities,” the sort of places where parents nervously helicopter about, non-parents think students are hopelessly coddled, and students hand administrators their cell phones and say, “Here, talk to my dad.” In fact, Wood describes a frequent new practice: hiring employees to deal with frequent calls from parents. Other factors in the “slouch” toward therapeutic U include consumer orientation, grade inflation and nothing less than attacks on the principles of free speech by schools; helicoptering by parents; rampant careerism, narcissism and the culture of self-esteem as enjoyed by students.
For a researcher studying Boomers and texting, there is little specific data here. But it does place texting between students and parents–one of the reasons why Boomers bother to text in the first place¬–in a larger and not very flattering context, specifically, the cell phone as the “world’s longest umbilical cord.”
This is a Pew phone survey of 2015 mobile phone owners, contacted in July 2007.
Not surprisingly, the study reports that Gen Y sends the most text messages (43% text every day), but Boomers are catching up. Some 16% of younger Boomers (45-54)and 10% of older Boomers (55-64) text daily. They’re not as irresponsible about texting while driving as younger people, though. About 47% of Gen Y-ers, 42% of Gen X-ers, and only 32% of Boomers admit to texting while driving. By now, mobile ownership was spread “relatively equally across generations.” Gen Y (18-24) is highest at 85%, Gen X (25-44) at 82%, younger Baby Boomers (45-54) at 80%, and older Baby Boomers (55-64) at 79%.
This survey hints at the difference between acquisition of technology and true adoption of it. About 80% of boomers have acquired cell phone by now, but only about 12% (averaging older and younger Boomers) text daily.
In these 20 essays, scholars including James Katz and Leopoldina Fortunati examine mobile phones and cultural identities in countries including Rwanda, Australia, China, Malaysia and Singapore. As with many sources, this one focuses far more on teens and younger adults than on Boomers. One of the few references to older people and the practical difficulties of texting comes from Genevieve Bell, who notes that “many” older Chinese interviewees complained about how their reduced vision and arthritis make cell phone use, and presumably texting as well, difficult. She also reports on “speed texting” contests in Malaysia and Singapore, another youth-centered trend that might prove particularly unattractive to older cell users.
In the concluding essay by editors Glotz and Bertschi, a Delphi-method questionnaire was used to solicit and share expert opinions from more than 300 academics, media experts and researchers from several countries.
In discussing the effects of mobile phone usage on everyday life, most of the experts said that mobile phones will make families feel closer, but also provide parents the chance to do some frank surveillance over their children. Not an unusual conclusion. Author Nyiri discusses how mobile technologies like texting gives teens a dramatically different sense of time management from their parents. This is particularly relevant when seen in the larger context of cultural differences between Boomers and younger people: differences in time management, attention, focus, multitasking skills, and attitudes towards them all.
Twenty-three essays by international authors, edited by the high-regarded Katz.Much scholarly writing about texting and the social context of cell phone use seems to focus on youth culture, and this book is no exception.The international authors offer theoretical perspectives, national and cross-cultural studies, essays on subcultures and fashion. When Boomer SMS use is mentioned, it’s mostly in the context of harried mothers keeping track of their children.
Johnsen’s analysis of Norwegians (teens, of course) places the text message in several interesting contexts, viewing it as a digital gift, a detextualized conversation, and a message whose content is not as important is its frequency and continuity; i.e. it doesn’t matter what you say, so much, as long as you stay in touch frequently. Johnsen then wraps the topic in the larger context of our “ideological belief in connectedness, however imperfect.”