How many texts do you think teens send in a day? Five? 20? 1,000?
If you guess 1,000, you’re not that far off. According to a study done by the Pew Internet and American Life Project in 2010, young people between the ages of 12 and 17 send more than 100 texts a day. “It allows them to stay constantly in touch with people who are important to them,” said Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at Pew. “Texting is a much different experience than calling somebody on a land line, where you might get their parents. There’s an element of ownership for teenagers around texting.” And with cell phone plans including more unlimited texting plans than ever, teens can send as many texts as they want.
Given how important texting is, just like any form of technology, there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. So how do you tell the difference between texting normally and too much texting in the context of relationships?
In a healthy relationship, all communication is respectful, whether it’s face-to-face, on the phone or online. If both partners talk via text in an honest and open manner, it’s fine to text a lot. This is especially true if it’s the couple’s preferred method of communication. Keeping in touch with a partner throughout the day can be thoughtful and sweet, but constant contact may be overdoing it, which is why it’s equally important that both partners feel they can ask for space and the other will oblige.
Both partners in a relationship should respect boundaries. So both should be okay with the other turning off their phone when they need. They should also be fine with the other’s right to spend time alone or spend time with family and friends without getting angry. Additionally, both should agree to privacy boundaries, which means an agreement to not read the other’s text messages or demand their password codes for their phones.
However, those in an unhealthy or abusive relationship may not respect those boundaries. It may start small, like asking several times a day where someone is, what they’re doing or who they’re spending time with. But it can quickly go from a few questions to 10, 20, even 100 texts per day, often centered around keeping tabs on their partner.
Abusive partners can use texting as a way to stay in control of the relationship and may text constantly to make their partner feel as though they can’t be separated from their phone for fear of punishment. If a partner is sending the other negative, insulting or threatening texts, using texting as a way to keep constant tabs on their partner, or looks through a partner’s phone frequently and checks their texts , that’s when it becomes too much texting -- and becomes warning signs of dating abuse.
Digital abuse uses technologies like texting, social networking and beyond to bully, stalk, intimidate or harass a partner. It’s never okay for someone to say or do something to lower another person’s self-esteem or manipulate their partner. If a partner sends someone threats via text, they shouldn’t be written off as venting but should be taken seriously.
If you know someone who feels suffocated by their relationship in part due to texting, they may be suffering from digital abuse. We’re here to help -- text “loveis” to 22522 to speak with a peer advocate.