TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Thumbs TV Poster Image
Brand-heavy docu celebrates kids who text at record speed.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Since the movie is about a competition, there's obviously some competitiveness at play. But there's also a sense of good-natured camaraderie and genuine friendship among the top contenders. That said, although the documentary hints at the downsides of excessive texting (whether it's the dangers of texting while driving or the threat of developing carpal tunnel syndrome), overall it seems to hold high-speed texting up as an enviable skill.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some of the featured contenders are better role models than others. Some, for example, would never text and drive, while others are shown clearly doing it. A surprising number manage to maintain extraordinarily high GPAs. But almost everyone seems to text during class -- even though they know it's forbidden and that they could lose their phone as a consequence.


Rare use of "damn" and "bitches." In one case, the word "f--king" is blurred out in a text.


LG Electronics, which sponsors the competition, has logos visible throughout the film, and several of the phones featured in close-ups are LG models. Facebook is promoted a lot, too.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this documentary centers on a national texting competition sponsored by LG Electronics, so LG logos are heavily featured -- including on the phones that kids use to compete. Although the film hints at the downsides of excessive texting, overall it seems to glorify it as an enviable skill, which could send a mixed message to younger viewers. There's also some mild language (including one blurred-out instance of the word "f--k").

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What's the story?

Profiling a handful of the top contenders preparing for the 2010 LG U.S. National Texting Championship in New York City, THUMBS looks into the world of competitive texting and reveals some borderline-frightening proficiencies among teens who are obsessed with their phones. Personalities include 16-year-old Kate, who won the top prize of $100,000 in 2009, and 13-year-old Brianna, whose parents keep her compulsive hobby in check with good, old-fashioned ground rules.

Is it any good?

While not among the very best or most artful documentaries about teens and their talents, Bill Couturié's Thumbs gets points for exposing the fascinating (and borderline disturbing) habits of teen texters, some of whom admit to sending up to 30,000 messages a month. And while parents of kids who are already old enough to text might not be terribly surprised, parents of younger children could get a much-needed wake-up call.


Particularly off-putting is the widely practiced custom among the featured contestants of texting during class -- from either under a desk or, for the more expertly abled, behind the back without even looking. And while multitasking is a useful skill in today's lightning-fast world, is it really conducive to meaningful learning? We're not sure it's so GR8.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the downsides to excessive texting. What are the dangers of texting while driving? What are the consequences of sexting? What about texting during class?

  • Should parents pay for their kids' texting habits, or should kids take responsibility for their own activity? If parents don't pay for their kids' cell phones, should they still be able to make the rules regarding usage?

  • How have cell phones and texting changed the way we communicate? Are we less skilled at actual conversation than we used to be? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

TV details

  • Premiere date: May 18, 1999
  • Network: MTV
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: TV-PG
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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