Fiona Hanson/PA Wire
New Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols greets worshippers outside Westminster
Cathedral, London on Wednesday, May 21, 2009.

Catholic Leader in UK Says Digital Communication Taking Toll on Relationships

August 03, 2009 05:30 PM
by Liz Colville
The archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, says tools like texting, e-mail and social networks are fostering “transient” relationships among young people.

The Dangers of Digital Communication

Nichols, who is the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the U.K., told the Sunday Telegraph that he is concerned about how digital modes of communication may be changing young people’s social habits. Nichols is worried that “excessive use of emails and mobile phone text messaging is creating shallow friendships and undermining community life,” Reuters reported.
Nichols described the use of e-mails and text messages as “excessive” and “almost exclusive” modes of communication. “[W]e're losing some of the ability to build interpersonal communication that's necessary for living together and building a community,” he said, according to Reuters.

Nichols added that social networking sites, such as Facebook, “place an excessive importance on the number of friends” users have “instead of the quality of their relationships,” Reuters added.

The comments come on the heels of the death of a 15-year-old British girl who overdosed on painkillers after allegedly being bullied by classmates on the popular social networking site Bebo, The Telegraph reports.

The Times of London includes further comments on the matter from Nichols. “Among young people often a key factor in their committing suicide is the trauma of transient relationships,” he said. “They throw themselves into a friendship or network of friendships, then it collapses and they're desolate.”

Recent Developments: Kids surf the Web in ways parents don’t condone

Symantec’s second annual Norton Online Living Report, released in March, indicated that children and teens are more adventurous on the Web than their parents might realize. Surveying 9,000 parents and children in 12 countries, the study shows that families “overall are getting more savvy about Internet safety,” but the statistics concerning children’s Internet use were surprising.

“[O]ne in five children admitted getting caught doing something their parents didn't approve of,” PC World reported, “although the survey doesn't define exactly what sort of activities.”

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Related Topic: MySpace bully cleared

In a highly publicized case, Missouri mother Lori Drew was indicted in 2008 for violating MySpace’s terms of service agreement when she created a fake MySpace profile to bully 13-year-old Megan Meier, who later committed suicide.

But Drew, 50, was acquitted by District Judge George Wu on July 3, the BBC reported. Drew had posed as “Josh Evans” in order to start an online relationship with Meier. Drew later broke off the relationship and sent Meier a message saying that “the world would be better off without” her, according to the BBC. Meier was found hanged in her bedroom closet soon after.

NEXT: Restless Teens Texting More, Sleeping Less, and Struggling

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