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The art of conversation...
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Photo by Jeff Sandquist Flckr Creative Commons

It dawned on me one day, riding in the car with my teenagers; the art of conversation may be on its way out. The car was always the one place I could count on to catch up on what was going on with my kids. I had a captive audience, strapped in with their seatbelts, no place to run and no place to hide. Gradually, electronic devices of all kinds started to appear in our house. All of them came equipped with earphones, or as I am admonished every time I call them earphones, ear buds, (accompanied by hilarious laughter and much eye rolling). Once these devices enter the ear, everything else is blocked out. They are in their own world, and all attempts at conversation are met with silence.

I have noticed that teens usually communicate with each other by e-mail, text messaging or social networking sites, all from their cell phones.  In fact, I’m not sure why it is even called a cell phone, because they never seem to be used as actual phones. The only time you will ever see a teen speaking on a cell phone is when they are speaking to their parents or some other adult.

"Will the spoken word become a thing of the past?"

In our house the cell phones never ring, they buzz. This signals an incoming text message. A quick glance at the message and the thumbs start flying. Sometimes a quick chuckle accompanies the response, and the messages race back and forth with great speed. (Parents of teens take note: This may cause overzealous communicators to exceed their monthly text message limit, which will end up costing you money. This will also lead your teen to beg for unlimited text messaging, which will not only increase your monthly bill but your blood pressure as well). 

Will the spoken word become a thing of the past?  Certainly it is easier to send someone an e-mail or text message, but that eliminates the human emotion, facial expressions and body language, which help us interpret the intent behind the actual words. (For example the eye rolling and laughter mentioned above).

What about spelling? Is the written word also about to become obsolete? It seems like each generation of teens adopts a word or a phrase to set them apart from the older generations. We’ve had: groovy, far-out, cool, awesome, phat, sick, and most recently, legit. Text messaging and instant messaging have given birth to a whole new language. I call it the abbreviated language. “You” becomes U, “are” is R and so forth. Phrases and even whole sentences can be communicated using only the first letter of each word. Therefore, you have to know the “code”, in order to decipher what is being said. A few examples would look like: LOL- laughing out loud, SS-so sorry, HW-homework, GF-girlfriend, CMB-call me back and CUA-see you around. This can’t sit well with the teachers of spelling and grammar around the country.

 I say the antidote to this madness is dinner. The teens in this house are always hungry, and electronic devices of any kind are prohibited at the dinner table. This has helped me regain my captive audience. Sorry kids, Mom always finds a way. LOL