George Lucas Educational Foundation


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As a writer and a parent I am very interested in using SMS for good rather than evil. Recent studies have shown that text messaging actually increases a person’s heart rate every time the phone goes DING. The distractions caused by texting in the classroom are something almost every teacher has encountered. However, SMS is also a fabulous tool.

Think about it; short, demanding messages that young people actually like. Learning requires repetition and text messages require reading. For everything from language acquisition to learning the Periodic Table SMS provides an invaluable tool that is currently largely unused in education.

Here is a hypothesis: Texts can improve the self-esteem and the moods of our children.

Forming this hypothesis and looking to explore instant messaging as a self-esteem boosting tool was spurned on by research preformed by Robert S. Weisskirch in 2011. His study published in, “No Crossed Wires: Cell Phone Communication in Parent-adolescent Relations,” Cyberpsycology, Behavior, and Social Networking, July/August 2011, 14 (7-8): 447- 451, showed that parental/child relationships improved when children reached out to parents for social support using texts on cell phones and when they received positive texts and encouragement from their parents related to schoolwork and other activities.

Currently, we are testing this hypothesis out on our son who is developing an unhealthy attitude towards competitive tennis. Tennis is a mind-body sport and as a perfectionist our son has decided that loosing is unacceptable rather than a learning experience. He mentally beats himself to a bloody pulp every time he loses. Constant encouragement and positive feedback has done nothing so far to lessen his sensitivity towards loosing. He loves the sport and won’t stop playing. As a parent, watching all of this is pure agony.

After reading extensively about psychology and tennis we are currently sending our son 3 positive SMS messages about what an amazing person/tennis player he is every day. The idea is that the texts filled with encouragement and love will help to reach into the subconscious section of his brain that we are currently not reaching by talking to him. Will it work? Would it work even better if the messages were from his coach or if he was having trouble with school from his teachers?

With summer approaching are there any other parents/educators who are also interested in using positive, self-esteem boosting texts three times a day to help their children with self-esteem/positive image issues? If so, please start sending SMS and share what you and your children are feeling and learning from the process.

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Ray Mathis's picture
Ray Mathis
Retired Health Ed Teacher certified in Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy


We can't make others feel better about themselves, and they can't do that for us either. The way we feel about anything, including ourselves, is ultimately the product of a host of cognitive choices we alone make. Thoughts cause feelings, not events (what others say and do) That's why complimenting someone doesn't always make them feel better.

People don't make us angry, can't put pressure on us, can't hurt our feelings, or make us happy either. These are just some of the many bogus ways people tend to look at their feelings and how they come about that are not based on scientific fact. Unless you understand how things really work, most of what people try to do to make themselves and others feel better often fall short of their intentions.

That's why in REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy) we teach young people (or anyone for that matter) to have USA or Unconditional Self-Acceptance, an internal locus of control, and to recognize and correct their own irrational thinking.

You can learn about the "tools" involved, why they're important, and how to teach them at

Ray Mathis's picture
Ray Mathis
Retired Health Ed Teacher certified in Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy

The answers to all your concerns and questions about your son are on that site. Some might be more apparent or less than others. I also have 13 narrated power points on YouTube called "Mental and Emotional Fitness" parts 1-13. My channel is "itsjustanevent"

What your son is struggling with is pretty common. And correctable. Dealt with it many times in my stint as an athletic trainer. You see it in Olympic and professional athletes as well. It's what I call "too much of a good thing". We want kids to WANT to do well. It's when they get into thinking they HAVE TO do something, like win, or be perfect and do everything perfectly all the time that it becomes a problem. Dr. Albert Ellis developed strategies long ago to effectively deal with this. The "tools" I noted in my first post do that.

Like getting good at tennis or anything else, it takes a lot of practice and rehearsal at thinking, feeling, and doing things differently to GET better. Even then, your son, like the rest of us, will always have a tendency to slip into old and perhaps dysfunctional cognitive, emotional and behavioral "ruts". Being aware of that, and accepting that it's part of being human to do so is important, lest he drive himself crazy by trying to now be perfectly rational all the time like he wants to be perfect at tennis. Brain physiology can work for us (like when he perfects a back hand) or against us (when he keeps plugging into some dysfunctional ways of looking at things)

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