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SMS roulette, anyone?

by Sandra Vogel on 07.06.2010 03:23
If some research by a mobile phone comparison web site is representative, SMS roulette is popular enough among 13-16 year old phone owners to be something we should all be aware of. So what is it?

It is easy to define. You compose an obscene text message, then scroll through your contact list to alight on a random contact. Whatever contact the scroller stops at is the one who gets the message.

22 percent of respondents to a survey of 1,382 13-16 year old people by mobile phone comparison web site rightmobilephone.co.uk reported having played this 'game'. One in three said it had got them into trouble with the recipient. Hardly surprising, really!

The research also asked about another SMS trend, random texting. This time you send a message - not necessarily an offensive one - to a made up number and wait to see if you get a reply. 19 percent said they'd done this.

Why would they do it?

Well, 11 percent said out of loneliness, 31 percent said it was just for fun, 9 percent said they were dared to do it. 42 percent said boredom caused them to send random texts to strangers. Interestingly enough 54 percent said they'd received replies - though as there is no mention in the research of the nature of the random texts or the replies we can't really infer anything from that information beyond the bare statistics.

I can see a number of questions and comments arising from certain quarters of our beloved media, such as:

Are we producing a generation of kids with so little to do that they have to get their kicks from sending random texts to people?

Should we be worried about the child safety aspects of all this?

What can possibly have gotten into our youth that they think being obscene is fun?

My own take is that all kids find ways to irritate and anger adults by doing what is seen as taboo. Text roulette seems to be to be a modern spin on a behaviour pattern that is not particularly new. Random texting and texting roulette may be no different to hanging around on a street corner and shouting things at random strangers who pass by, giving and taking dares, and generally doing stuff that is known to be forbidden.

Am I missing a point here? Is the use of mobiles more insidious / pernicious / damaging than I think, or is it just the evolution of children being children?