Youth Youngsters, especially teenagers, revel in sleep-texting, leaving their harried parents huffing and puffing. P. Sujatha Varma speaks to both sides to capture their frame of mind

Teenagers are prolific texters. But now they have evolved a new way to stay connected to friends all through the night by sleep-texting. Little realising that texting in this ‘being-asleep-and-being-awake’ condition can invite serious health hazards, an increasing number of young cell phone users stay exposed to mobile radiation for longer hours, thus taking longer to sleep and spending less time in deep sleep.

“The phone beeps when she is just about to sleep and she MUST answer it. A struggle to key in the alphabet sometimes results in gibberish,” says Sukanya, a harried mother of Sudhamayi, an engineering first year student.

Teens should get at least eight or nine hours of sleep a night. Over-plugged and overextended, they tend to get less than that and this interrupts what could be a good night’s sleep. Mostly it so happens that they’re an hour-and-a-half or two hours into their sleep cycle, and the machines are beeping at them.

“Obesity, depression and failing grades are some of the banes of this degenerating trend. Distance from a handset is important. A technology-free bedroom can be an ideal way to ensure sound sleep,” says Counselling psychologist T.S. Rao.

“Ban them. Modifications like Smartphones or 4G features have added to the problem. Do you realise how many words the average person can type in a short time with one of those things? They’re mass word-spelling machines. And these teens are texting constantly. In the morning again, they wake up confused, grab their phone and are off mumbling in the text message,” says Umamaheswara Rao, yet another agitated parent.

“Just like with guns, it’s not the phone which is a problem; it’s the people using them. Cell phones are useful, and to deny them would be unwise. I use my Smartphone responsibly, and I find it a very convenient way to keep in touch with practically anybody. Nevertheless, I still wish that I would much rather have grown up in the 50s,” says a pragmatic Sai Ganesh, a post-graduate student.

Even while the clamour against the cell phone-toting brigade grows louder, the section in question seems unruffled. “My cell phone is part of my life. I’d rather wake up dead than not finding it around me. Why should everything that we like be subjected to a ban?” argues Inter first year student Teja Tanmayi.

Manigandha is a software developer and earns deep into six figures. “Why do teenagers need cell phones? I own a flip phone that lets me make calls and get voicemail. If I can do without a Smartphone, I don’t see any reason why these young ones can’t,” he wonders.

Calling them dumb zombies with their little electronic toys, Veerabhadra Rao, an economics lecturer, says kids that use a phone 24x7 probably aren’t very smart. “I don’t mean that the entire generation is dumb. But there is a difference between being a technology zombie and just using technology. One must create a balance,” he says.

Psychologist Rao sees a simple solution to the issue. “Kids don’t have the money to pay for their technology but their parents do. It’s time parents helped them disconnect, go outside, look around at the world and talk to their friends face-to-face”.