Texting For Dollars 

STAR Tannery, Virginia - Who am I to criticize someone who has won $50,000?

That's what I keep telling myself about 15-year-old Kate Moore winning the LG U.S. National Texting Championship.

I mean, really. What has anyone around here won lately?

Actually, my first thought was, "They compete over that?" followed by "Why do we insist on turning everything into a competition?"

The answer is, of course, money. The $50,000 given to Kate as a cash prize is small potatoes in terms of the amount of advertising generated and viewed on MTV, where competitors had to watch shows and text back broadcasted messages. Apparently the competition had the added bonus of keeping kids glued to the television even more than usual; at least we can hope more than usual.

And I can't get the creepy image of millions of hypnotized teenagers staring at a television screen, mechanically echoing back messages to some Big Brother who is counting how many responded, what they responded to and what got the most response.

Let's take the $50,000 out of the equation, though, since only one kid out of millions of teenagers won what was, by contrast to the bucks generated, a piddly amount. Maybe we should be just a little bit concerned about the . . . uh . . . skills . . . required to be a winner in this particular competition, which amounts to pushing buttons.

Leave out the winnings and what we are left with is a teenager who texts an average of 400 to 470 messages a day and admits to having had her cell phone taken away from her in class. I'll admit that happened once in the Heirs' high school career; the cell phone went from the teacher to my possession and wasn't returned to the offending Heir until the end of the school year. We never again had a problem with Heirs focusing on their cell phones instead of the instructor.

Kate also insists, in response to the obviously softly lobbed reporters' questions, that she maintains her grades and social life and that her favorite use for texting is "studying for exams." Yeah. And my son and his girlfriend go for long nature walks to observe the bird life.

And, of course, "maintenance" and mastery are two very different things, rather like the difference between achieving the Virginia Standard of Learning and actual proficiency in the subject matter are two very different things.

I know I sound curmudgeonly, particularly in view of my own ineptitude with texting. My sons won't text to me anymore because it takes me too long to answer and, up until recently, my messages were ambiguous because I didn't know how to add punctuation. For instance, when answering a text that an Heir won't be coming home because he's going to watch a movie at the house of a particularly unsavory character, there is a big difference between "Don't come home" and "Don't. Come home."

With the help of my sister-in-law I managed to send Heir 2 a particularly effusive text right after his principal declared him "graduated." A few seconds later I got back a text from him stating, "U found out how to add an exclamation mark, huh? You only needed one. UR not 13 yrs old."

But even Heir 2 admits he's not half as fast as most of the people he knows and even they average only 30 to 40 texts per day - that's only about 10 percent of Kate Moore's average, so you really have to wonder exactly when she finds time to look up, let alone maintain her grades and social life.

The thing that made me shudder, though, was this direct quote from Kate herself: "Let your kid text during dinner! Let your kid text during school! It pays off. Your kid could win money and publicity and a phone."

I just can't help but wonder what would happen if Kate put all that texting energy into paying attention in school and maybe doing something other than watching MTV. She won $50,000 by sending over 400 texts a day. A full academic college scholarship is worth upwards of about $200,000.

You do the math - your phone has a calculator, doesn't it?

Copyright (c) 2007, SteelWill, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Spot On is a trademark of SteelWill, Inc.

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