Text Monster: Teen Tips On Digital Dating Obsessions

thatsnotcoolApril 28, 2009 “Whatcha doin’? Who you with? Text me! Text me back!”

When does ‘caring’ become controlling textual harrassment? What happens when the ‘connectivity’ that takes the form of digital grunts, ‘sup?’ ‘hey,’ ‘lol’ gets annoying even to kids themselves?

“That’s not cool” is a fun Ad Council riff using sock puppets, tin can art, comedic fruit and graphic mixed media to artfully amuse without sounding like a…um…’sock puppet’ public service announcement.

The sock BF version (video after the jump) is hilarious in its light-hearted Fandango-style treatment of crossing digital lines into possessive, obsessive behavior seemingly popping up ‘everywhere’ with frenzied back and forth digital presence so incessant that it becomes akin to ‘cyberstalking.’ In an effort to escape the controlling menace, one puppet puts a boot on the other one’s head as if to scream ‘shaddup already’ (‘put a sock in it’).

With a teen voiceover that applies (and appeals) to both genders, the two-sided stories resonate without being heavy handed, giving ‘multiple choice’ scenarios of what kids should do in each scenario that ALSO maximizes the fun factor.

texting-handsAdmittedly, NONE of us could willfully hit the ‘predictable’ response, being a bit renegade by nature with a desire to see ‘what would happen’ if you went in the other direction…but even those video answers were silly fun, and many colleagues in the industry seem to agree.

“That’s not cool” even touches upon privacy breaches and profile ‘break-ins’ which could apply to snoops of the parental persuasion too…

YOU know the ones I mean, folks who ‘happen’ to ‘sneak a peek’ at e-mail, texts, or Facebook/MySpace logs in an ethically challenged M.O. of either curiosity, lack of trust, or both. (more on that judgment call taking place on Common Sense Media’s forum here)

tncOverall, I think the spots did a great job of making the most of the silliness to convey the “trust me and give me some space” message…including these strongly worded postcards as a ‘back off Jack’ finale to put an end to the pester power in no uncertain terms.

I don’t know how many teens would risk this level of snark in a dating scenario vs. the friendship factor as it seems aggressively ‘last ditch’ or ‘talk to the hand’ to me…Still, I think it’s   encouraging that kids are trying to establish SOLID relationship boundaries before entering into unhealthy communications behavior.

Like? Cyberbullying, or the media ballyhooed ‘sexting’ (Hypography, has a good riff on the hype of sending provocative photos among intimate pals which can become ‘frenemies’ fast) or basically ANY digital tool that needs to Connect Safely. (Regular readers know they’re my ongoing internet safety resource for balanced online reporting, right up there with co-founder Anne Collier’s NetFamily News).

imalldayNot sure the digital postcards need to be such nastygrams…

BUT…I guess kids get their fill pretty quick from unwanted suitors from what I hear, and it rightfully lands on them as disrespect. Plus, there’s a dollar driven equation for those NOT on ‘unlimited texting’ accounts, when some clown uses up all of the mobile clout with monosyllabic drivel. (I’ve seen this among adults who automatically ‘assume’ people have unlimited texting and make dire business faux pas…) THAT’S not cool either!

In the sexting video below called “Pressure Pic Problem” they tell the story through funny fruit (animated in short story format with one sending ‘peeled’ photos of stripped down skins to urge another to do the same) which is enough to make you spew your own OJ. (you’ll have to SEE that one to get the nuances, which got a ‘rofl’ from our teen team)

I’m not sure how they’re distributing/promoting these little viral vignettes or seeding them in the digital kids sphere, (hopefully not some 3am PSA timeslot on the tube) because the cellphone as digital tether has indeed made an impact unlike any other generation, and this message IS worthy to get out there.

“Techbrarian and edublogger” (who makes up these coinages?) Lou Lahana gives an example of using text monster in a blog assignment for talented teens, “Watch THIS video. Now pick an answer: a) You have no choice, tell her your phone is broken b) Tell her she needs to trust you and give you some space c) Move away and work on a horse ranch…NOW…In your blog answer the following questions:

1.  Which choice did you pick? Why?

2. If you could have added a choice, what would it have been? Why?

3. Have you ever had to deal with a text monster?  If so, tell the story.  If not, feel free to make up a story.

I wonder what came out of that one…

edwardFrom a media standpoint, ‘text monsters’ are a solid topic…ESPECIALLY since blockbuster hits like Twilight and its Edward character are making some teens swoon…when in real life they could suck the energy and lifeblood right out of a kid. (‘abusive relationship’ 101)

And now we’ve got Beyonce in ‘Obsessed’ topping the weekend box office in theaters, (which may be the Fatal Attraction of this generation)

…All the more important teens have some tools and tips with setting some solid boundaries early on and determining for themselves the difference between “he really likes me, he really likes me!” versus controlling, ‘psycho’ social stalking behavior.

Kids that crave peer attention (and who doesn’t?) have new muddied waters when it comes to dealing with jilted crushes, wounded feelings and an ‘obsessed’ admirer, because it can segue to ‘cyberbullying’ and rumor-mills in a hot digital minute if not handled with aplomb.


No wonder teens seem more fueled by drama than prior generations…the ‘always on’ pervasiveness in multiple media channels can be a time sink when complications and missteps arise.

Of course, with any new media comes new scenarios…pos, neg and neutral…

I keep explaining to ‘absolutists’ that texting in itself is not ‘bad,’ (though judgmental parents and high volume media love to swing the pendulum to extremities of sensationalism and drama, since we apparently don’t have enough)…

In fact, as I said on Rona Renner’s Childhood Matters radio show on media management awhile back, parents should consider that texting can fit into and even benefit their own family eco-systems…

…From kids’ ability to stealthily text an S.O.S. ‘get me outta here’ message for a party pick up (and save face among peers) to simply “asking vs. presuming” that going to so & so’s sleepover is okay.

phoneblurKids often prefer texting because it’s fast and effective without droning on like the hanging on the phone days of yore…

It’s simply the ‘new’ way of keeping in touch with friends, sharing minutiae, and carrying support network in their jeans pocket.

Parents, on the other hand, can get into serious hand-wringing (albeit sometimes well warranted) about peer influences being ‘with them’ 24/7, and kids being empowered by each other in a sort of ‘pack mentality’ that parents can find overwhelming, usurping authority and running roughshod over family time.

But that’s a different type of ‘control’ issue too, is it not?

That falls into the ‘media management’ mix of ongoing challenges of 21st century parenting and discipline. (having battling that one myself quite a bit on my own homefront)

So what do YOU think? Do these videos work for you? Kids? Teens? Digital dudes and divas? Weigh in…Are the tips offered in the forum (by kids for kids) helpful?

I like the fact that this stuff is even being addressed since I continue to chant the ‘know thyself’ media mantra to customize the channel and frequency of my own parental pushback.


By the way, I found the That’s Not Cool campaign while voting for The Girl Effect in the same category (sorry, gang) as the deadline for this week’s ‘people’s voice’ Webby Awards 2009 is 4-30! (vote now if you want to weigh in on your faves in each category) Not that I pay tons of attention to Webby award nominees, mind you…


Many that read Shaping Youth know how I feel about the ‘gaming’ of the systems with popularity ploys of who has the most time to fritter on Twitter to gain votes a la Ashton Kutcher’s big CNN coup, and the obsession with microblogging versus long form citizen journalism.

Still, I was prompted to vote by our friends at Do Something (who I admire greatly) so I wanted to…well…DO something and vote for them, in the web/youth living category to give ’em any edge I could, especially since it seems to mean something to them.

For me? It simply means I find other great resources and media that I hadn’t heard about…That discovery alone is worthwhile…

tnc3This particular That’s not cool campaign is under the category of “Rich Media/Nonprofit Educational” in the Interactive Advertising arena, but I can tell you right now, they are under some STIFF competition.

As I mentioned, I’m heavy on applause for The Girl Effect, which has a massive global impact that Nike helped gain footing…so I’m committed to my one vote already, and wish they could open up this category to other worthy winners like the No Stank You campaign and Young Drivers and the Greenpeace whales, all worthy entries…

I’m curious as to which ones resonate the most with youth…

At Shaping Youth, The Girl Effect won hands down, but our teen team is particularly lopsided on girl power, so I’d like to get some male voices and views into the mix.

(Do guys even watch this stuff? Forward to a friend? Do girls? Or only when ‘asked’ for input?)

How are kids finding these campaigns? Or are they?

Weigh in. Have you seen them? If so, which ones and how?

Meanwhile, gotta go answer a text that just chimed in, “Can I go 2 Suzy’s after school?”

Um…“idk”…What is she doing texting me in class? Hmn.

Maybe she’s in-between? On lunch? Ahem. Here we go again…



  1. Hey there, I noticed you referenced my blog and I wanted to share with you a link to some of my student’s responses to the “text monster” PSA. Click below and scroll down to “Tantalizing Text Monster Posts”


    P.S., great blog! Can’t wait to peruse it…

    Lou Lahana’s last blog post..Assignment 36 (7th and 8th Grade) Assignment 34 (6th Grade): Sneakers, Part 4

  2. Thanks, Lou, appreciate the link and the feedback…My feeling so far has been that the videos are solid but the postcards are a bit sarcastic/coarse…which sadly mirrors our society and kidspeak these days…LOVE the text monster campaign though so will pop on over to your blog right now and take a peek at the outcomes/responses!

    Great to find YOUR blog, too! 🙂 Best, Amy

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..Text Monster: Teen Tips On Digital Dating Obsessions

  3. I just checked out your students’ blogs, and am going to share this fictional one with readers as an example of the assignment responses you were given…

    You’re doing great work with the kids, and it seems you’re inspiring some strong critical thinking skills as well as literacy/engagement. Very cool…

    I’ve put you in my Google Reader and would love to invite you/your students to guest blog with us and feedback on some various issues! Let’s chat further…I’m reachable here (always) and via amy at shapingyouth dot org!

    Okay readers, here’s the post by “avelazquez” to Techbrarian

    “Monday, February 23, 2009
    My Text Monster Story
    ***My Over Protective Boyfriend***

    Uhhh! My boyfriend keeps text messaging me. Its not just constantly texting me its that he keeps asking me where I’m at and who I’m with. Its gets really annoying. At school he comes up to me and gives me this whole speech on how I should answer him because he worries about me. Please! The only think he worries about is me not cheating on him. Its not like I hate him (because I don’t) but after a while it just make my day more boring. I feel like changing my number so he could leave me alone or change schools. Either wont help I’m gonna have to talk to him and tell him to chill out.

    **The Next Day**

    I have been waiting here in front of Shawn’s locker and he has yet to arrived. Another 10 minutes pass and I finally see Shawn walking my way. He finally reaches me and gives me a look.

    “What’s your problem” I tell him.

    “My problem? My problem is that I call you and you don’t pick up. That’s my problem” he yelled.

    ” Well sorry if I don’t feel like talking to my boyfriend who is CONSTANTLY texting me” I yelled back.

    “You know what I don’t have to deal with this. I try to be a good boyfriend but instead you rather ignore me and see other people behind my back” He told me.

    “What? I am not seeing anyone besides you” I then added.

    He took another look at me and left. I sighed and walked to my next class. Throughout my next couple of classes I was thinking if I should break up with Shawn. I finally came to a conclusion. I am going to break up with him. He’s always giving me a hard time when I’m being honest. At lunch time my phone starts to ring. I get another text message and guess from who. If you guessed Shawn then your right. The message read:

    Dear My EX Girfriend

    Sorry but I found someone who actually calls me and isn’t like you. We are through.

    I couldn’t t help but wonder who he is dating but I was happy he broke up with me. And that is the story of me and my over protective boyfriend.


  4. Wow, AVelazquez is going to be so proud you quoted her! I know several of my most outspoken bloggers who’d flip for the chance to guest blog 🙂

    On a related note, I posted the “Pressure Pic Problem” video and some pretty intense resources on the notion of “sexting”. Should make some for an interesting set of posts.


    Lou Lahana’s last blog post..7th and 8th Graders: Dangers of Sexting

  5. oooooh…can’t WAIT to read that one, Lou. I’m very muddled as to how much of a ‘real’ issue it is versus a ‘media’ issue…as many of the students I queried had never even heard the TERM.
    (not to say they hadn’t kanoodled via text flirtation, mind you, just not photos, etc.)

    Tell your most outspoken bloggers that I’d LOVE for them to “pitch me” with a subject they’re passionate about! (or I can ‘assign’ one and see who nibbles?)

    Your call, ‘teach’… 😉

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..Therapeutic Impacts of Virtual Worlds: Using New Media Positively

  6. Teenage relationship mostly depend on what you read and how your friends are. you learn a lot from reading specially from your friend and you mostly like to be as your friends are.

    So , while writing any topic we must have to take care that it must not contain any thing by which any person can learn any negative thing.

  7. Are you an auto bot my chance? If so, ‘this is a test’ …I think I got the gist of what you’re saying and will leave the links in place after pre-screening…sophisticated automation and/or interns (?) I’m seeing from comments lately…

Speak Your Mind