"Hey, Dr. Phil. I was just wondering if excessive texting is the teenage equivalent to alcoholism," says Dawn, speaking on video. "My son is obsessed with texting, and he won't put his cell phone down. I was also wondering if this is an obsessive-compulsive behavior that I need to be concerned about."
Dawn's 17-year-old son, Preston, logged a total of 125,723 texts in the past three months. During one of those months, the number was nearly 50,000.
Dr. Phil turns to the teen when the videotape ends. "What are you talking about?" he asks.
"Either it's, like, 'How are you?' 'What are you doing?' Or it's, like, 'Do you want to hang out?'"
[AD]Dr. Phil pulls a ream of paper out of a box and riffles through the pages. "This is a record of your texts, outgoing and incoming, on your phone. A lot of trees gave their lives for this," he jokes. "Does that seem crazy to you?"
"With the number of people that I'm texting, and the hours that I'm texting, not really," Preston answers.
"Do you ever talk to anybody [in person]?" Dr. Phil says.
"Do you try to stop this? Do you think it's excessive?" Dr. Phil asks Dawn.
"I do think it's excessive. We, as a family, have set up goals and ideas of what we think is OK to text and when it's not OK to text," she responds. "As a rule, you can't text during dinner. You can't text during church. You can't text during school and after 10:30 p.m. on school nights."
Dr. Phil addresses Preston. "Do you stick to those rules?" he inquires.
"For the most part," he replies. "Most nights, I stay up and text later than 10:30."
Dr. Phil consults Preston's bill. "We've got texts here at 5:30 a.m.," he notes. "What are you doing up at 5:30?"
"Usually hanging out with people," Preston replies.
[AD]Dawn is shocked by the news. "I had no idea," she says.
Dr. Phil assures her that her son's behavior, while excessive, isn't cause for alarm. "I don't really think this is a big deal. It's a habit," he says. He turns to the teen. "You feel like you've got to reach out all the time, but you don't let it take the place of regular relationships, right?"
Although Dr. Phil doesn't have a problem with extreme messaging there is a dark side of texting that parents should be aware of.