According to a 2012 Pew Research Center report, 63% of American teenagers use text messaging to communicate with each other every day. The study also showed that a U.S. teen sends an average of 60 texts per day.
Lead researcher Kelly M. Lister-Landman of Pennsylvania’s Delaware County Community College describes compulsive texting as more tan just sending frequent texts. She says it also “involves someone trying and failing to cut back on texting, becoming defensive when challenged about the behavior, and feeling frustrated when one can’t do it.”
The study’s subjects were 403 predominantly white teens (211 girls and 192 boys) in 8th and 11th grades from a small town in the Midwest United States.
Subjects filled out a two-part questionnaire called the Compulsive Texting Scale. Some of the questions allowed the researchers to learn whether their subject’s texting activities hindered their ability to complete assigned tasks; how engrossed they were in texting and how much of an effort they made to conceal their texting activities. The second questionnaire was used to gauge their subjects’ academic performance and see how well adjusted they were in school.
After reviewing the results of the questionnaires, the researchers found that only the female subjects had any negative connotation between compulsive texting and academic performance.
Despite stereotypes that may suggest otherwise, other studies have found that girls do not engage in texting more often than boys, but each gender tends to text for different reasons.
Lister-Landman cited a 2005 study conducted by Naomi Baron (Gender Issues in College Student Use of Instant Messaging) that suggested young women mostly use internet communication to nurture relationships and for social interaction, while young men use it to merely pass along information to each other.
“Girls in this developmental stage also are more likely than boys to ruminate with others, or engage in obsessive, preoccupied thinking, across contexts. Therefore, it may be that the nature of the texts girls send and receive is more distracting, thus interfering with their academic adjustment,” Lister-Landman said in a press release.
The researchers admitted that since their test subjects were mostly white, as well as other issues, the results of their study were somewhat limited.
They envision further research to include observing students while texting, examining their monthly phone bills, as well as including parent interviews.
Lister-Landman added that it would be interesting to study what actually motivates teens to text, and learn how much of an impact multitasking (ability to do more than one task at a time) has on academic performance.