It may have taken two years, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office finally approved a patent Apple filed in 2008 which sought to prevent users from sending or receiving "objectionable" text messages.
The patent doesn't use the term "sexting," however it's no secret that's what Apple was after. Here's how the patent reads:
"In one embodiment, the control application includes a parental control application. The parental control application evaluates whether or not the communication contains approved text based on, for example, objective ratings criteria or a user’s age or grade level, and, if unauthorized, prevents such text from being included in the text-based communication.
If the control contains unauthorized text, the control application may alert the user, the administrator or other designated individuals of the presence of such text. The control application may require the user to replace the unauthorized text or may automatically delete the text or the entire communication."
In other words, Apple just patented the censoring of text messages. But will it work as intended? If you've ever read a teenage text message, then you already know they speak a language all their own. Good luck to whatever algorithm is used to try and decipher covert sexting.
We're not sure what's more disheartening, the fact that Brianna Hendrickson, a 13-year-old from Brooklyn, New York text messages her friends and family 7,000 times a month, or that doing so prepared her to win this year's LG U.S. National Texting Championship and bring home $50,000 for her efforts.
Either way, little Miss Hendrickson has a good jump on her college tuition after beating out 500,000 other texters who participated in the challenge. During the final battle, Hendrickson triumphed over two other teens and a 48-year-old woman from Chicago by being the first to accurately type, "Old McDonald had a farm, Ei, ei, oh! And on this farm he had a champ. W/a txtr here, and BFF there. Here a text, there a text, erywhere a text-text!"
"I was really nervous when I saw the final phrase and worried my fingers wouldn't be fast enough," Hendrickson said. "Hearing my name announced was amazing and shocking all at the same time."
Hendrickson is now eligible to compete in the LG Text for Good Challenge, in which she could double her cash price, plus another $50,000 for a charity of her choosing.
Call it a blatant stereotype if you will, but there's no way adult texters come close to text messaging teenage girls who send and receive thousands of texts every month. But that doesn't mean grownups are left living in the cell phone Stone Age, either. According to Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 72 percent of adult cell phone owners now partake in texting.
That still trails teens in general (male or female), of which 87 percent of those who carry a mobile phone keep in contact with friends and family through text messaging. And we don't even want to know how the comparison breaks down when looking at the total number of messages whisked through the airwaves, though Pew Research revealed this stat anyway. On average, your teenage son or daughter (or YOU, as the case may be) send some 50 text messages every day, compared to the "typical 10 text messages" adults send and receive on a daily basis.
But let's forget about the quantity -- teens are always going to 'win' that one. What's interesting is the steady rise in the number of adults warming up to text messages. In December 2007, a little more than half -- 58 percent -- of adult cell phone owners participated in texting, and that number jumped to 65 percent in September 2009.
"It may be that folks have been pushed by pricing into unlimited texting plans, which has the effect of encouraging people with those plans to text more, because they no longer think of the cost, and then text more often," said Amanda Lenhart, Pew senior research specialist.
Melissa Thompson, a 27-year-old woman living in Salford, England, used to text message her boyfriend some 40 or 50 times per day. Now she holds the Guiness World Record for being the fastest typist on a phone, which she achieved using a Samsung Galaxy S smartphone.
Here's what Thompson typed to claim the record: "The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human."
The previous record for typing the above blip on a smartphone was held by Franklin Page of Seattle, who took 35.54 seconds to type it all out. But Thompson not only broke that record, she shattered it by nearly 10 seconds, taking only 25.94 seconds to punch out all the characters.
According to Thomspon, she's not up to speed on her texting, despite having set the record. The reason? She now lives with her boyfriend and no longer fires off dozens of messages to him each day.
It's bad enough trying to dodge sports cars and sedans drifting into opposing lanes because the driver's busy firing off a text message, but try going up against a bus or 18-wheeler and let us know how that plays out. That's not something we ever want to encounter, nor does the Department of Transportation like the idea, who has now made it illegal for bus drivers and truckers to pound out a message on their cellphone rather than pay attention to the road.
"We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe," said Ray LaHood, Transportation Secretary. "This is an important safety step and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving."
Big wheeled drivers caught defying the new law will face a fine of up to $2,750, plus possible jail time if an accident occurs.
It's unclear how many truck and bus accidents are caused by texting, but according to the National Safety Council, some 200,000 crashes of all types on U.S. roads are direct results text messaging. The practice is banned in almost half the U.S. states.
Human beings can’t seem to stay quiet for even short periods of time. It’s chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter. Thankfully, we’ve found a new, quieter (though for some no less annoying) way to converse: texting. How popular? Four billion a day and growing.
Figures released by the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA) say that during the first six months of 2009 some 740 billion text messages were sent. That breaks down to about 4.1 billion per day, or 17 text message each day from data-capable phones. (My thumbs ache just thinking about it.)
CTIA also notes that as the number of text messages rose, the length of voice calls has fallen. Call length peaked at 3.13 minutes in 2007, and since dropped dropped to 2.03 minutes--the lowest average CTIA has recorded.
While we may think ourselves the big winners in all this--texting is something we really, really like to do, but we’d be wrong. Plowing through some simple math on the cost of messaging, CrunchGear figures that a 20-cent, 160 byte message translates to $1,310.72 per megabyte. GDAEman reports that the actual cost to move that much data is $0.15. In other words, the mark-up on text messages is 8,511 percent.
That may seem like a lot to move a mere megabyte of data, but rest assured that cell companies are right now pondering ways to milk even more out of your obsession.
According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, an overwhelming majority of Americans feel text messaging while driving should be made illegal. Not only that, but over half surveyed said those caught sending a text while behind the wheel should be punished just as harshly as drunk drivers.
"If you're going to drive, drive; if you want to talk or text, pull over to the side of the road," Constance Drake, 71, of Toms River, J.J., said in a follow-up interview with the New York Times.
Americans don't seem split on the issue, at least according to the poll. Only 3 percent of respondents saw nothing wrong with texting and driving at the same time, while the other 97 percent disagreed. And around 80 percent said it should be made illegal to talk on a cellphone while driving, unless it's a hands-free phone. That's up from 69 percent in a 2001 ABCNews poll.
What's your stance on texting or talking on a cellphone while driving? Hit the jump and sound off!
Cyber-bullies aren't the only dangers today's teens face when staying connected through social networking sites and other forms of digital communication. According to Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, excessive emailing and text messaging is leading young people to form "transient relationships," putting them at a higher risk of suicide when the friendships break down.
"I think there's a worry that an excessive use, or an almost exclusive use of text and emails means that as a society we're losing some of the ability to build interpersonal communication that's necessary for living together and building a community," said the 63-year-old Archbishop in an interview published on Sunday.
According to Archbishop Nichols, networking sites encourage kids to put a greater importance on the number of friends they have rather than the quality of friendship. When that network collapses, it can be "a key factor in their committing suicide," he said.
It just so happens that text messaging isn’t the soulless form of communication that we’d all thought. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Jeffery Hancock of Cornell University has recently run an experiment on using only text messaging as a form of communication to convey feelings, and the results might surprise you.
The study consisted of 44 pairs of participants, all using only text messaging as means of communication for 20 minutes with the goal of finding out as much about their partner as possible. They were also asked to talk about something that was stressing them out. To help promote communication, one member from each pair watched either a scene from Sophie’s Choice (where a mother in Auschwitz is forced to choose which of her two children would be put to death) or a clip that simply involved small talk.
The results came out with astonishingly high accuracy. They showed that every participant was able to accurately convey their partner’s state of mind, mood and felt a real connection with them. Those teamed up with the watchers of Sophie’s Choice were also notably saddened after the chat.
So as it turns out, texting is a very viable form of communication. It allows us more time to formulate an answer to whomever we’re speaking with, and to be more honest with them than they might be over the phone or email.