Even at The Homework Club which is a really engaging educational space I see students taking out their phones as a comfort tool as they wait for their classes. I have had the discussion on texting and teenagers with many parents over the last three years. It seems that students have forgotten how to talk to each other and prefer to hide behind texting instead. But I don't find this surprising at all. After all from the age of 5 when they start school they are continually asked to be quiet. I think they have retreated into their own private world where they can continue to "talk".
Another great example of teenagers taking over technology for their own gain and status is the use of the "Mosquito" sound as ringer tones that was originally designed to stop them hanging around areas. As the teenagers could only hear the sound this made it a perfect channel to use to communicate which each other.
What we learn here is as we focus teenagers into a constricted environment with our rules they will always have the initiative to find ways to use devices for their own benefit. The problem I see is that they have gotten so reliant on texting rather than talking - they are almost afraid to lose the technology barrier from the world. That combined with the fact that we don't ask for their opinions very often - well it is hard to suddenly expect them to want to engage and talk freely!
A wonderful aside to this situation is that we have in the past used "text speech" to help students with expression difficulties to write. As many of these students which are what are often seen as having severe learning and communication difficulties have by themselves "learnt" text speech as this is the perfect medium to get them started on writing - all we need them to do is expand the letters! Text speech is so often shunned in education but can be such a great starting point!
Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly