rebelling against low expectations

Busy Signal(s): Cell-ing Our Souls


“In case you were, I don’t know, too busy text-messaging to notice, Americans today are looking to use their cell phones for a lot more than just phoning people.”

— Dave Wischnowsky, Enter The Mind of a Teen, June 21, 2006

Cell Phone, Help Me Cheat On My Test

According to recent Siemens Communications Inc. survey many Americans want their cell phones to not only serve as their phone, but also as their MP3 & video player, gaming console, digital camera, and email service.

Not only that, but phone companies are quickly learning that one of their largest markets — teenagers — want even more than that.

“Especially among younger people, it appears that customers are ahead of cell phone companies in devising new applications,” says an unnamed Siemens Communications spokesman.

But what kind of new features are teenagers across the country clamoring for? That was the question intended to answer by conducting interviews with dozens of teens across the country.

“We decided a little man-on-the-street follow-up was necessary to confirm that teens want new cell phone features,” said columnist, George Simpson.

The answers offered not only a surprising array of farfetched features, but also a disheartening window into the mind of the American teen — full of obvious intent to use technology to aid and abet irresponsibility, rebellion against parental authority, and in several instances, crime itself (see below).

Seventeen-year-old, Rye, New York:“I want an auto-redial feature that leaves a voice mail that says, ‘I am so NOT talking to you right now.’ That would be a real time-saver.”

Eighteen-year-old from Garden City, New York: “I wish I could put my cell on the dashboard and have it give me a ringtone like ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ when I hit a radar zone.”

Fifteen-year-old from Calabasas, California: “I’d like to be able to scan in exam questions so I can text them to my friends in the library. My thumbs get really tired having to manually enter them now.”

Fifteen-year-old from Hartford, Conneticut: “I want a cell phone that will tell me if surveillance cameras in the mall are fixed on me. That’d be a big help.”

Nineteen-year-old, Park City, Utah: “I want a countdown bar, like the battery indicator, that tells me when I am running out of ‘anytime’ minutes and I’ll have to pay back my Dad for the calls that go over the plan.”

Fourteen-year-old, Lexington, Virginia: “I want built-in text copy that I can insert into messages with real phrases like “Oh, my god!”; “So totally”; “She is SUCH a [bleep]”; and “Promise me you won’t tell anyone else, but…”

Fifteen-year-old, Chicago: “I want a phone that has different background noises, like crowds at a football game or class period change bells that you can switch on, so my parents won’t know where I really am when they call.”

Eighteen-year-old, Miami: “I want a wire extension that projects my cell screen on my glasses so I can play ‘Bejeweled’ without looking down during Earth Science. Man, that class really sucks. And I know that fascist teacher totally hates me.”

Fifteen-year-old from New Canaan, Conneticut: “I want a voice filter that makes it sound like I’m sober when I call my parents.”

Sixteen-year-old from Houston: “I need to be able to block my ex-boyfriend’s text and voice calls. He is driving me crazy. You know I tol’ him it was O-Vah, but he don’t listen.”

At School: The New “Mosquito” Ring Tone

Even without these crazy features cell phone use is becoming a big problem in government schools for both high school and middle school age-groups — so much so that schools are having to impose strict policies regarding cell phone use on school property.

“Most public schools have strict policies regarding cell phones at school,” says Greg Taillon in his article, “Cell Phones For Kids?” on Preteenagers Today, “I found out that some instructors will deduct up to 5 percent of a child’s grade for a ringing cell phone in the classroom.”

Regardless of school policies, Mr. Taillon estimates that up to 75 percent of middle school children have their own cell phone, with this percentage rising in the high school years.

Not only that, but many teens are finding ways around rules against cell phone use in the classroom — most notably by utilizing a high-pitched ring tone that teens can hear but most adults can’t due to the natural loss of hearing sensitivity as a person ages.

“When I heard about it I didn’t believe it at first,” said Donna Lewis, a technology teacher at the Trinity School in Manhattan in an article in the New York Times. “But one of the kids gave me a copy, and I sent it to a colleague. She played it for her first graders. All of them could hear it, and neither she nor I could.”

The high-pitched buzz was originally created to annoy teenagers that tried to congregate in malls while not disturbing adult shoppers. The plan has backfired due to an ingenious coup by modern teenagers, but it is highly unfortunate we can’t find something better to do.

Nevertheless, Alex and I encourage you to make the ring tone a family science lesson and compare the ability of different family-members to hear the sound. You can download an MP3 by clicking here. After your done, study this pitch chart, made available by

Text-Messaging: U Could B Dumber 4 It
Teenage America’s obsession with their cell phones, especially with popular text-messaging, could be damaging our IQ’s, according to a recent study conducted by King’s College London.

The study of 1,100 adults found their intelligence declined as tasks were interrupted by incoming e-mails and text messages. The average reduction of 10 IQ points, though temporary, is more than double the four-point loss associated with smoking marijuana.

“Doziness, lethargy and an increasing inability to focus reached ‘startling’ levels in the trials by 1,100 people,” writes Martin Wainwright with Guardian Unlimited. It seems that constant interruptions not only damages productivity, but also wears the mind down with constant questions and challenges on often unrelated topics.

According to the, the effect on those who tried to juggle new messages with existing work was the equivalent, over a day, to the loss of a entire night’s sleep.

Mike Salman, chief executive officer of All Star Wireless Communications said that he couldn’t address the issue of falling smarts. But he did say that most of his young clientele come to his shop seeking cell phones for texting, not talking.

“It’s the first question they ask,” Salman said, “whether or not a certain phone is good for text messaging or e-mail. And honestly, I’d say more than half of the people who come to me don’t even ask about phones for talking on them.”

Email Is, Like, So Yesterday

As yet another indication that our desire for instant gratification has reached a crisis-stage, email is being neglected in favor of the more “instant” alternative: text-messaging.

“It’s too complicated to send e-mail,” explains 14-year-old Jennica Paho of San Jose, “I have to go in and type it, and send it, then wait for a reply.”

Ironically, many arguments that were once made in favor of email are now being used against it. In his interview with, Alex Stikeleather, 17, of Palo Alto, argues that “e-mail is more like snail mail.”

With text-messaging and instant messaging on the rise many employers are becoming concerned because their younger employees are instant-messaging while at work.

“It’s an issue lots of employers are having to deal with,” says Michael Wood, vice-president of Teen Research Unlimited in Chicago, “The concept of always staying connected with their friends — they’re going to take that with them” as they grow older.

Many teenagers spend hours each day “texting” and “IMing” their many friends. Haggai Dziesietnik, a senior at a California high school says he sends and receives about 280 text messages a day, but in one three-day weekend at Tahoe he logged about 4,000.

“The more friends you have, the more cool you are,” says Aston Carney, 11, from San Jose, and most students it seems believe that technology is the best way to make and keep those friends.

What Do You Think?

As always, our goal is not just to provide information but also to encourage thoughtful discussion. Here’s a few questions to get us started:

  • How do we guard ourselves from using technology as a way to get away with sin, instead of as a tool to glorify God?
  • What are your thoughts on our generation’s obsession with text-messaging and IMing?
  • How much have you noticed “texting” among your own group of friends and acquaintances? How much do you do it?
  • Where do you think the balance is between using technology to be more effective for God and wasting time, and possibly, energy and brain cells?
  • How do you think technology is changing the definition of “friendship” among young people today?

About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →