Texting teens learn to talk face to face
Lori Kelman (right) helps student Rebecca Smith and other teens improve fundamental communications skills lost to texting technology with her program, Enhancing Teen Communication.
April 24th, 2012
06:34 AM ET

Texting teens learn to talk face to face

by Jim Roope, CNN

Listen to CNN Radio's podcast from Jim Roope about a class that teaches teens to communicate face to face.

Los Angeles (CNN) It's an often-observed teenage obsession: texting. Kids today spend an awful lot of time bent over cell phones sending text messages to each other. In fact, you can observe them sitting within normal talking distance from each other yet instead of talking, they'll be texting a conversation.

"I see that the kids are so involved in texting that they shy away from communicating face-to-face," said Lori Kelman, founder of the program 'Enhancing Teen Communication.'

"They bury themselves in text, hide behind texting, will say things through text that they wouldn't in a million years say to somebody face-to-face. That's not a good thing," Kelman said.

Kelman, who spent most of her professional life as a broadcaster for Los Angeles radio station KFWB and in corporate marketing and public relations, said she got the idea for the program when attending her daughter's class one day and as the kids would stand to introduce themselves and talk a little about themselves, many could barely string two words together. On child she said, stood there, hands folded, staring up for five minutes, not able to utter a word. "My heart broke for her," Kelman said.

This lack of fundamental communications skills, she believes, is a result of texting technology. It can hurt teens, she says, as they interview for jobs or college.

"We teach them resume writing, interviewing, public speaking, marketing, broadcast news writing, public relations and media relations," said Kelman. "They're going to have to communicate in the real world and that's part of the reason I developed the program is so that they could."

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, teens are twice as likely to communicate with their friends by text every day than calling them on the phone.

Ron Ye saw a flyer about Enhancing Teen Communication and brought his 17-year-old son Zack to check it out.

"You never really get a second chance to make a first impression," Ye said.

Zack Ye took the first eight-week session.

"Learning how to communicate with the world, learning how to get yourself out there and...for instance, applying for a job. She taught us how to do that," said Ye.

California's unemployment rate is still among the highest in the nation at just under 11-percent and in this state, the jobless rate for teens, 16-to-19-years-old, is 34-percent.

Kelman hopes the first 28 teens in her program should have an advantage when going out for job interviews. She has secured a copyright for her program and hopes to make it a business as the number of texting teens is growing.

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Filed under: Podcast • Practice • Technology
soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. rey

    That is so true teens are in their phone most of the day than other stuff

    April 26, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  2. Navin Johnson

    I am 50 and have gone back to college. I am always having young kids bump into me in the hallways of my school because they are texting while they walk and have no idea are about to bump into someone. I just try to clear a path for them...its so sad..

    April 26, 2012 at 3:35 am |
  3. Melanie

    I applaud Lori Kelman for standing up and helping children reach their potential. There are so many teachers and parents out there that could care less about the kids these days. I have a younger brother who just got a phone and whenever he is with me, I try my best to keep him from texting and actually communicate with me face to face. Keep up the good work Lori Kelman!

    April 25, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  4. teacher2002

    I've noticed, with my teenage students, that lack of coping mechanisms regarding conflict with others students is a bigger issue. I had to intervene in a situation where one students was leaning back in his chair and touching the table behind him. Instead of the student at that table asking the student to stop, he growled and put his hands over his face. I had to walk them through the conversation. This felt so bizarre considering they're 13. Students often say that conflicts find themselves all over Facebook, where kids post nasty things about eachother over something that was so small. We are raising a passive aggressive generation.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  5. algorithmsc

    What Lori is doing is admirable. It's really sad that someone like Lori has to even do this. I see way too many parents who could care less if their child spends all of their time hidden behind a phone. The reality is, that it starts at home and unfortunately, most modern parents get an F in raising children.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  6. UncleJohn

    Just another baby step towards living in pods. I wonder if the Cro Magnon looked at the new hairless humans and wondered if they were cold.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  7. Kevin says blah blah

    That is so inappropriate! Maybe you should learn more effective communication skills.

    April 25, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  8. David G.

    Just wanted to thank Lori for actually coming on and replying to some of the comments. This is very helpful and adds greatly to the value of the exchanges. It's much too easy just to provide empty criticism to this or any other article, but when the subject of the article takes the time to address real questions about the content and create a fair and honest dialogue that's what the comment boards should be about. Thanks and good luck Lori! Pretty soon (if not now) adults will need the same course, I believe.

    April 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • oh come on already

      David it would seem that you know Mrs.Kelman personally as you address her by her first name. You accuse some of providing empty criticsm for giving their imput! That in of itself is criticism is it not? Mrs.Kelman did not address the real issue, she came on this blog to defend her opinion. From what I read in this article, texting causes our kids to lose the ability to effectively communicate. Is this idea backed by real data? Have there been studies? Does all social networking have this effect? No. No. and No. So it is actually an educated guess. I am not saying everyone would not benefit from being a more effective speaker or listener for that matter. What I am saying is that texting does not cause one to lose the ability to do so. You call this 'fair and honest dialogue' then is it fair to not consider other opinions? Is it honest to say that texting IS the reason our kids have trouble speaking in front of the class or to each other? Is it reasonable to conclude that adults will soon have the same problem from texting? To be 'fair' would be to offer better classroom instruction and participation. To be 'honest' would be to say, this MAY be one of many factors involved. Would it not?

      April 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
      • parent

        texting in and of itself causes other issues which leads back to the ability to communicate being destroyed. Along with texting comes ways of being quicker about it, not having to type as many letters or words so what has happened? texting has become it's own language with abbreviations and I have 2 teens. I have to monitor them because they were sending over 3000 texts a month, as were many of their friends. Many teens do not even know how to spell, speak to people, and yes conflict resolution is going away. I have seen the thing where 2 teens sitting close to one another not talking but texting, I don't allow it in my house, I put a stop to it real quick. So, I'd say yes, texting has led to the inability to speak well with others because people aren't made to engage with each other.

        April 26, 2012 at 3:40 am |
      • Lori Kelman

        I have no idea who David is - ans YES - there have been countless studies already done on the negative impact that texting has on learning...check online. Adults have also asked me for a course to help them communicate better, so you are spot on!!

        May 3, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • oh come on already

      humm the only thing empty are your words......way to back the scam artist. Like parents need to open their pocket book to teach their kids to talk. My teenagers wont stop talking! They frequently tex eapecially my daughter

      April 25, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
      • oh come on already

        Make your comments but PLEASE do not use the same user name. Geez. First comment is mine second is NOT. Uugg.

        April 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  9. luky

    smart move

    April 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  10. Lane

    I agree with this also because kids are sometimes even just failing class because of a phone, this is also another cause of cheating in the schools.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  11. elena

    it's really sad that teenager need a progam like this to learn how to face this situation, and is even worst if you think that they prefere send a message instead to talk face to face with someone, probably we lost old custom, right a letter, see a friend, go somewhere and meet someone.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • mad moonshine

      They dont! Kids will not self destruct because they text. Its a new way of passing a note. It alows them to say things they would other wise whisper in an ear. So parents and teacher can not hear! Its another form of expression, simply put. Dont make a bigger deal out of it than it needs be.

      April 25, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
      • Lori Kelman

        Sadly, it IS a big deal. Teens are flocking to my program in droves – of their own valition – because they realize they arent able to communicate effectively. I encourage you to delve into the research that's been done on the impact of texting on learning and classroom concentration. I developed this class to help a handful of eager kids in Mission Viejo, CA - but the need was so great and the program was so much in demand that I decided to take it nationwide to help.

        May 3, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
      • Lori Kelman

        Actually, its the teens who had asked me to develop the program and want the education - and Im not against texting – its a symptom of the larger problem that many teens arent being taughts how to communicate effectively face to face and they need those skills to find work. So I am simply offering the education to those who want it – and propose that there's an alternative to texting for those who want to get better at face to face communications.

        May 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  12. Kat

    The fact that teenagers even need a program like this to learn how to talk face to face with other human beings is a sad, sad commentary about our culture as a whole and the lack of parenting in our country today. Seriously people, you can choose to block texting from your kids phones during school hours, or just block it completely so they have to talk to each other. While yes, the kids do need this education, it comes right back on the parents. I'm sorry, stop staring at your own smartphones and laptops and actually TALK to your kids!

    April 25, 2012 at 3:39 am |
    • mema

      Well said. Spot on.

      April 25, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • mayflower

      This is the main reason I will not be buying my kids phones and limit their computer time. Yes, I am the mean, boring mom, but I'm also the mom who has kids with actual social skills. They are out playing and connecting with other humans of all ages.

      April 25, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
      • major mom

        Lol mayflower. It is so true that we are considered the mean mom when we do not let our kids do what "everybody else gets to do". I might upset them today but hopefully they see the benefit tomorrow. In the good ol' days we played outside and used our imagination, something terribly lacking today. Keep up the good fight!

        April 25, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  13. james

    Lazy.ignorant.and obese.american youth

    April 24, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  14. Austen

    This is so so stupid!!! No kid texts their friends when they are standing right next to them. God the assumptions old disconnected people have!

    April 24, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Lori Kelman

      I wish that were the case. I've been in the company of teens doing it on multiple locations – right next to each other!!

      April 24, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
      • Austen

        Your right I did it in high school too, usually because the topic of choice would not be too agreeable with parents, teachers, etc. . . It's not that they would prefer to text then talk. . . they were probably finding out where the party was going to be! The old fashioned days of note passing for that has passed.

        April 24, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • ImpishLisa

      I am a mother and I see the kids sitting around when the high school lets out. Their eyes are on their cells and they barely look at each other. Sure, some talk, but the majority still stare at their cells. God forbid I go to my family to visit and expect to talk their kids. The teens act put out if they have to put their phones away and carry on a conversation.
      But I don't blame the kids. I blame their parents. Take the phones away and make them learn to integrate with society the proper way. Phones aren't owed to them, they are perks. We all grew up just fine without a phone

      April 24, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
      • Melissa


        April 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
      • #teen

        All that is happening is young people growing up with readily available, more advanced technology. We are the first generation to grow up with phones and computers in the easy-to-use way that they are today. It is perfectly normal for the older generation to get scared, but truthfully it's a fact of life that will not go away. Also, we don't ever text each other sitting side-by-side unless we don't want someone to know what we are talking about.

        April 25, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Steve

      Wrong! I have actually seen this happen! That's how out of control this has become.

      April 25, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • Erica

      As a young adult, just out of college, who has worked in a K-8 school for the last two years, I assure you they do. I have even had young adults colleagues who have done the same thing, and I refuse to reply until they speak to me out loud. It really is scary how out of touch people are getting with human interaction.

      April 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Nathan

      Yeah they do. I have seen it over and over. I have seen teens sitting on the couch next to each other and texting rather than just turn and talk. There is nothing stupid about this. Today's teen's cannot communicate effectively. They fumble words, sound so uneducated and have no pride in how they speak or communicate. I tell my kids that if you sound like a fool, people will take you for a fool.. if you sound like an educated person, then people will take you for being educated.

      Take your head out of your own phone and take a look at the world around you. You will be surprised at what is out there.

      April 25, 2012 at 10:19 am |
      • mad moonshine

        Wow all that from texting? As apposed to social network or blogging as you are doing now! Our kids grunt and get confused all because they text? The fumbling of words from the fumbling of fingers to send a text? You and Lori must have insight that the rest are lacking. That is to say, you have also concluded that texting and texting alone has caused such uneducated, ill spoken, bumbling kids? Really? Keep drinking the punch.....

        April 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • umm

      The fact that someone believes a child would stand up unable to speak to a class for over five minutes is ridiculous. That is a long amount of time.
      If someone is unable to speak after that long the issue isn't with texting, it's social anxiety.

      April 25, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
      • oh come on already

        Umm how right you are. No and I mean NO child has lost their ability to communicate from texting. Texting is much the same as writing a note only you type. Same goes for any type of social networking. If that were the case then we would be creating an entire society of people who can not talk effectively! I text, type, facebook, tweet and blog. If nothing else it has greatly improved my social skills and vocabulary. As I want to be informed and I tend to not want to use the same words over and over again, so I look up mew ways of expressing my view point using different wording. I have learned many new words and have become a more proficient typer. It alows us to express ourselves in new ways and in my opinion is benefical for those who actually do have trouble being expressive. Its a new outlet for communication and expression. The child mentioned here could not string two words together NOT because of texting but more likely due to anxiety. To blame it on texting is an uneducated assumption. Where is the scientific data to back such a claim? In no way or form are our kids muttering senseless speech because of texting. It is other factors in combination that cause social awkwardness. This is some bogus attempt to explain the obvious and to profit off of another jump on the bandwagon idea. I for one am not so gullible. Like they say there is a time and place for everything. Keep phones out of the classroom and away from the dinner table, church etc...A little common sense goes a long way.

        April 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
      • Lori Kelman

        My program teaches public speaking its an 8 module program. Texting isnt the only problem, but its a major one. Either way, teens leave high school without the communication skills they need. This isnt about bashing texting – its about getting the education that kids need to them.

        May 3, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  15. kel from SC

    Schools are dropping cursive writing so kids can't write a sentence. Now texting is replacing talking so kids can't have a face to face conversation. I hope that when these teens grow up and try findind a job, their interviewer will be a machine. God help this great country. Semper Fi

    April 24, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Terry

      It is all about teaching students to use a keyboard, since most state education testing is performed on a computer. The trick will be the creation of artificial intelligence that can decipher the essay portion of the exam. TADDA

      April 26, 2012 at 7:11 am |
  16. mema

    Mrs. Kelman may have had good intentions at the very begining but may have now turned this meaningful concept into a purely money making gig. It just seems that we need more people out there, myself included, who could offer a little volunteer time to perhaps an after school program to provide this service. With unemployment and teens out of work at record highs, some parents can not afford to pay for such instruction. I dont think that is possible if she recieved a copyright for the concept.

    April 24, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Lori Kelman

      Mema –
      I do offer the program at no charge, and teach it as a volunteer which requires a lot of prep time and research, precisely to enable kids with limited income to attend for free. When it's developed nationwide, I will need to charge because it will incur business expenses to make it accessible to teens nationwide.

      April 24, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
      • mema

        Lori I believe you have gotten a bit too defensive over my commemt. I do not believe that anyone should copyright treaching a child to interact with other kids. I mean whats next copyright AA or other programs that help people with personal issues regardless of the concept. Did you get a PHd in helping kids talk face to face. Wouldnt this idea, which is what it is at this point, be better served in a classroom setting. Its no new idea as kids are in speech class and if thats not sufficent then I blame the teachers. Make these kidd put up the phones and if they do not then take them up or send them to the office. They participate or they fail. It is that simple. I realize teachers have alot of stress with kids these days but it is clearly in the school rule book, phones off during class or they take them up! Dont get me wrong your hearts in the right place but you should need to use personal expenses to accomplish this. Use your passion to influence schools and perhaps local government officals to concider putting better instruction in class on the subject. It was simply stating that this should be a group effort where we can all play a part.

        April 25, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Lori Kelman

      P.S. Anf honestly, I think parents and educators feel that investing money to help our kids is worth it!!

      April 24, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
      • Lori Kelman

        And see above – anf instead of and - racing to save time inhibits succinct expression, as well, which is yet another texting malady.

        April 24, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
      • mema

        Lori investing money is not the issue. You make it sound as if I do not see the value in giving kids the best we can offer. That is not the case. However if our schools are not providing something as basic as communication then there are some real serious issues with the education system as a whole. I do not think the problem can be summed up to texing per sa. It is a much more complex issue. I mean there is facebook, tweeting, blogs, texting. To me these are other avenues of expression and do not in of themselves cause kids to lose the ability to talk to each other. I do think is has become a way of saying things one might not say face to face due to it possibly being inappropriate, threatning, or something along those lines. Does it however cause kids to forget how to communicate? Its my oppinion as a parent that it does not. This is a deeper more complex issue and stems from many factors.

        April 25, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
      • mema

        Oh Lori its not a malady...
        Malady: any undesirable or disordered condition.
        So you hit the wrong key or it auto corrected. Texts are not meant to be poetic expressions etc...those kids and adults sending texts are sending jokes, plans, reminders, invites, so forth...

        April 25, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Lori Kelman

      Ive spent 35 years in on-air Radio/TV, Corporate Marketing, Public Relations and Media Relations to get the real life expertise to put a program like this together. The skills embedded in this program are professionally acquired and cannot be provided by a parent who wants to volunteer to help kids and hasn't had the same level of expertise. I chose to "give back" after obtaining all of the professional expertise to pass on.

      April 24, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
      • mema

        And teachers that teach speech or drama or other expressive classes have not. Wow you are too sensitive.

        April 25, 2012 at 8:50 am |
      • mema

        Wow I did not realize it takes expertise to teach a child to communicate. I had three children and as a parent I did just fine. I did not allow tv or phones whatever during meals. So you have 35 years experience in public relations and I have 28 years experience in parenting! This idea is simply put a new twist on an age old concept for a profit. Texting is in of itself not the problem it is setting boundaries for our kids. Any parent of a teenager will tell you is that in reality teenagers are very good at expressing themselves when they want to. Sometimes to the point of frustration of the parents.

        April 25, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • Lori Kelman

      Mema – I am not sensitive at all. I noticed a need and a desire from kids to learn to communicate better, so I stepped up to the plate. My program teaches them resume wiriting, public speaking, interviewing, marketing, broadcasting, news writing, public relations and media relations. No harm if you don't feel its of value. I can assure you that others do. have also invested all of my money into the program, to respond to you. I believe in helping our kids and have taught kids of all ages for years. Ive seen it make a difference. If its nothing more than good parenting you feel is needed, thats fine. My community has embraced this program and its drawing nationwide media attention - so there's clearly a need that isnt being filled. I am trying to help.

      May 3, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  17. asdfgadsgadfg

    .... is texting any different then passing notes back and forth or are you old people too old to remember that too... sorry the world invented a way to communicate quickly without talking face to face. Just pretend you understand your Jitterbug and we'll keep doing what we do.

    April 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Brian

      Just because we (remember it was older people who created this technology) created texting etc does not alter the fact that there are times when face to face conversation is how you will be judged. Be it a job application, a loan application or Defending your self in a court. Language is important. How you use it and interact with other people is important. Texting is often a cowards way of avoiding real face time with others. If it is something you honestly believe is worth saying then try saying it out loud. Learn to enjoy the active discussion of your ideas with others in the real world.

      April 24, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
      • sweet kitty

        Brian so is blogging! Enough said.

        April 25, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • jieojfewf

      Read the first couple paragraphs of this article :http://schoolsofthought.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/01/talking-texting/

      I graduated high school in 2007 and therefore experienced both writing notes and texting in school. I believe there is a vast difference, not only in a students writing ability, but in the ownership of the words that are being written.

      April 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  18. The professor

    I don't want to live on this planet anymore....

    April 24, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • mema

      Maybe you could move to an astroid and mine it...

      April 24, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  19. frankmf

    Good job, Mrs. Kelman. A job with a real future. Now that we are constantly unlearning how to communicate with other people. Strange and very scary world we live in now..

    April 24, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  20. octavio

    Ill text this to my adult friends.....

    April 24, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  21. bucko

    While I grive the passing of the "old way" perhaps we are witnessing the evolution of the new? Maybe future job interviews will be conducted via texting? The future we all touted back in the 1950s is unfolding before our eyes!
    Who needs to waste brain space with spelling when a machine can do that for us?
    I'D really like to see psychologists' input as to why kids prefer texting!

    April 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  22. leera

    i truly like this article. i find that mr. roope is very fair, and balanced, with stating one of the more serious problems with texting in our young people, as i have observed myself. thank you. i am also ecstatic that ms. lori freeman has approached this problem in such a practical way. thanking her as well. i sincerely hope this brings hundreds running to receive this help!

    April 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  23. Lenn

    Seems to be a good program. Now see what we can do about writing. Most of these kids cant even spell. All due to computer spell check and no hand writing in class.

    April 24, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • kel from SC

      You hit the proverbial nail dead on. Most high school grads need remedial courses when entering college. If they can't read or write a complete sentence without grammatical or punctuation mistakes, they should stay in high school for as long as it takes. This country is now priding itself on dumbing down the next generation. Semper Fi

      April 24, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Lori Kelman

      Much of the program focuses on writing skills, as well.

      April 24, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • mema

      Lenn you are so right on that issue. I have seen the work the teachers allow to be turned in these days. When I was in school it had to be legible, in black ink or pencil, have a heading and be returned to a folder that the teacher would look over periodically. Anything less would not be graded and returned to student until it met those standards. I looked over a paper one day that my stepson was going to turn in and it was chicken scratch and in green crayon! I said, your teacher is going to let yoi turn this in! He said, yeah sure everybody does. Wow. I think these kids are making their own rules and teachers are frustrated and have to a point given in. Our kids are graduating and needing remidiation to attend college. The real issue is the education our kids are getting these days. Signed- frustrated parent

      April 25, 2012 at 9:46 am |
      • Lori Kelman

        Thats exactly my point!! Theres a disconnect between what kids need and what they are being taught in the way of communication skills to help them find work. My program is one way that can help.

        May 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm |