You see them everywhere buried in their mobile phones. They are mostly teenagers, texting abbreviations to one another to keep alive the trivia of the day. The dexterity of it all is rather impressive, a sort of speed-skating done with finger tips.
The passing of a secret slip of paper to a friend is long dead; penned communication has become the dinosaur of interpersonal exchange. It's all about texting now, also known as SMS messages -- those quick bits of twenty-first century code that teens text to alert one another about the news since five minutes ago. It's all about the text, those exchanges of adolescent fluff that pass the day before homework begins. It is all the stuff of adolescence.
There is more though. There is a substance to teen years that often times does not carry into adulthood. The passions run a bit deeper and are less contained. There is a shared belief that forever is a long time.
It is also a time when friendships take firm root. The compassion and empathy shared in youth is the spirit of the best of who we are. It is a message that overweight teens effectively share with other overweight teens via the text message.
The University of Michigan Study
Four groups comprised of a mix of 24 teenage males and females were tested in a study at the University of Michigan to analyze if text messaging can be used to enhance teen weight-loss strategies. All participants already had weight reduction programs.
The groups were sent a variety of styled messages to discover what effect each message would elicit. Among the messages were testimonials, tips for losing weight, questions that promoted feedback, questions that required consideration and thought, specified messages, and recipes.
Teen Responses to Message Types
Test subjects in the study were more responsive to certain types of messages than to others.
Those messages that subjects were most receptive to were instructional messages, recipe messages, and messages about approaches to weight loss.
Messages that carried a positive tone were also well received.
Messages that were poorly received were those that made reference to unhealthy diet practices even if they were coupled with suggestions for more healthy choices. These messages also prompted some of the teens to experience negative cravings.
Assessment questions were also poorly received. Researchers feel the delivery method was a factor in the outcome.
Assessment of Text Messaging and Teen Weight Loss
Researchers are determining what effect text messaging among teens may have on weight reduction. The data collected from the study is still being analyzed at this time.
Prior studies on text messaging have produced good results with regard to quitting smoking and flu vaccine adoption.
Teens, Texting, and Good Thinking
Hopefully, using text messaging to promote weight loss and other healthy habits is a good step in a better direction. There is some irony in all of this given the likelihood that our attraction to electronics has contributed greatly to obesity in the United States. Television, Facebook, the Internet and other double-edged devices keep us in our couches and easy chairs manipulating a remote or a mouse. A more positive edge would be welcome in any of these areas.