My first Texas publisher, Norman Fisher, frequently became irritated with employees over what he considered to be their too frequent participation in personal calls during business hours. The irritation could grow into anger if they were so engaged when he approached their desk with a request and they did not excuse themselves from the call.

The detail portion of the telephone statement was subject to thorough scrutiny each month to determine if the personal telephone use also involved additional charges from tolls.

I canít help but wonder how Fisher would react if he were around to see the culture of the modern office with its proliferation of personal communication devices among employees. Is taking a personal call on a private cell phone and carrying on an extended conversation as serious as tying up a business telephone? Perhaps not, but it is as big a waste of business time. Not too many years ago I read where efficiency experts were calling the widespread availability of the Internet allowing employees to surf the Web at work as the largest distraction and drain on business productivity. Compounding the problem today are social networking sites like Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. It would be interesting to see the results if a similar study were conducted today on texting.

Texting seems to be a harmless means of communication and far less disruptive than someone talking too loud on a cell phone. However, I find the need of some people to be in constant communication a mystery. I watch people in the office almost stop in mid-stride and pull out their phone and start texting as they continue to across the office. To someone like me, who has never been a speed typist, it has to be more time consuming than calling.

A report by McClatchy Newspapers said the new technologies, such as cell phones and social networking sites, are giving teenagers easy access to their friends 24 hours a day. And what they and their parents donít know is that it can be detrimental to their health. The report said the young people are in their rooms staying up until extremely late hours using cell phones and computers to stay in touch with friends. The trend is leading to sleep deprivation and causing many daytime problems for the teenagers. Symptoms include headaches, impaired concentration, weakened immune systems, crankiness, increased use of nicotine and caffeine, and hyperactive behavior often misconstrued as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, school-aged children and adolescents need at least nine hours of sleep a night. But in a national survey only 20 percent of teens said they get nine hours a night. Nearly half said they sleep less than eight hours on school nights and 28 percent of high school students reported falling asleep in school at least once a week. Cell phones are not the only culprits of sleep deprivation. Video games and computers contribute to teensí inclination to stay up all night. Cell phones, computer screens and even televisions emit light rays that keep you awake. Light automatically stimulates the retinas in the eye, Dr. Myrza Perez, a specialist in sleep disorders said.

The McClatchy reporters interviewed a female student who sleeps with her phone right by the bedside just in case a friend called or texted her in the middle of the night. She said sometimes she would receive calls or messages as late as 3 a.m. and she would wake right up to call or text back. The student soon found herself suffering from near-debilitating migraine headaches throughout the day. Part of the problem, according to the sleep experts, is that individuals are not sleep-conscious and are not taught healthy sleep habits, like going to sleep and waking up at a consistent time every day, not eating or exercising right before bed and turning off noise and light-emitting devices like cell phones.

Legislation has been introduced in Washington calling for states to ban texting while driving or the states will face cuts in the federal highway funds they receive. Some businesses, including the Bulletin, have banned the use of cell phones while operating mechanical equipment. I suspect if Fisher were around today the prohibition would be expanded to include the business offices as well.

Robert Brincefield is vice president and publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at bob.brincefield@

brownwoodbulletin.com.