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In addition, more than ninety-eight per cent of text messages are opened; they are four times more likely to be read by the recipient than e-mails.
If you’re a parent, you know that, even if your son does not text you back about where he is, he has read your message.
If you are a distressed teen or a counsellor, you know that what you say will be read.
A person can contact Crisis Text Line without even looking at her phone.
(Crisis Text Line counsellors are free to give a real or assumed first name to people who text in.) It is also regarded as a mistake to embrace teen-age patois too enthusiastically.
If the texter’s first message is substantive (“My so-called boyfriend is drunk and won’t stop yelling at me”), the counsellor echoes the language in order to elicit additional details (“I’m so sorry to hear that. I’m freaking out”), the reply will be more open-ended, while gently pressing for greater specificity (“So what’s going on tonight? An average exchange takes place over a little more than an hour, longer if there is the risk of suicide.
“A lot of times, when chatting with young people, it’s clear that they just need someone to listen to them,” one counsellor told me. When an agitated friend texts me bad news (a breakup, a layoff, a sudden rent increase), my instinct is to find a positive response to the predicament (“But you didn’t even like him! Thomas Joiner, a psychology professor at Florida State University and one of the country’s leading suicide experts, pointed out another way in which conversational norms can be counterproductive.
“From a clinical standpoint, one common misstep is tiptoeing around issues and treating them like taboos,” he said.
But a typo appearing on the cell-phone screen of a distressed teen-ager can undermine the sense of authority he’s looking for.
“You have to train yourself not to hit that return button automatically,” a sixty-year-old counsellor from California told me.