Text messaging and child's play pay off

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A 13-year-old Pennsylvania girl was crowned national texting champion Saturday after she typed "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from "Mary Poppins" in 15 seconds.

Before you dismiss such teenage skill, I must tell you that the girl won the $25,000 prize. "I'm going to go shopping and buy lots of clothes," Morgan Pozgar told the Associated Press after winning the prize from an electronics company. No kidding. What else would a teenage girl say?

The teenager says she sends more than 8,000 text messages a month to her friends and family.

All of this is kind of mind-boggling to me. I didn't grow up in the Internet age. I've since learned to navigate the information superhighway.

I regularly talk on a cell phone. But I've avoided text messaging. I don't want to type on my phone or have to read the words of whoever is trying to reach me. If you can't tell me over the phone, then send me an e-mail. Phones are made for talking, not reading.

But if nothing else, it's clear that there's money to be made with such text-messaging skills.

No doubt, this will only encourage teenagers to send even more text messages.

And in America today just about any activity can be turned into a national contest. The success of the ESPN television network has proved that point.

So has the USA Rock, Paper Scissors League. It's national competition is scheduled for next month in Las Vegas. And yes, it will be televised.

Apparently there's even more skill involved in this competition than in text messaging. The winner will capture the $50,000 grand prize.

Growing up, I just thought it was child's play, so I didn't spend a lot of time perfecting my moves.

Maybe that's why my younger daughter, Bailey, usually beats me in the game.

Today, this game is serious business. Just ask Ray Scott. The 64-year-old retiree won the New Hampshire title by advancing through eight rounds of tournaments at Manchester, N.H., bars. The key there, I assume, is to let your opponents do all the drinking.

Fans refer to Scott as "Santa" because of his white beard and spectacles.

Scott told the Associated Press he has a nice Santa suit, but he's unsure if he'll wear it. He worries about how it would look to children.

Well, personally I doubt anyone would take notice. In the glitter and glitz of Las Vegas, a man in a Santa suit even in springtime wouldn't seem strange.

With all the prize money available to such competitions, I keep thinking that someone should come up with contests specifically for parents. After all, we have a lot of skills. We serve as our children's taxi driver. Later on, we provide them with driver's education.

Maybe we could have a driving contest in which contestants would see how long they could ride shotgun while their teenage son or daughter is behind the wheel. Perhaps an insurance company could come up with prize money for such an event.

I've already had plenty of practice. Becca wants to drive all the time. No matter how small the errand, if it involves driving she's ready to roll.

I tell her it's tiring to be the passenger when she's behind the wheel. I have to pay attention to her every move.

As a dad, I also have to offer some advice such as "turn here."

Teenage drivers, I've discovered, also have "left" and "right" issues. Tell them to turn right and they might turn left. They apparently know their left and right, just not when they are behind the wheel.

While busy parents are waiting for some suitable contest to enter, I guess we should all just encourage our children to practice text messaging and repeatedly play Rock, Paper, Scissors.

With such skills, future generations are bound to hit the jackpot.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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