How Has Texting Affected the Social Lives of Teens?

Teenage friends text messaging on cell phones
A group of teenagers texting on their cellphones. (Image: altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Talking on the phone is so old school. Most teens today prefer texting. About 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds in the United States own cellphones, and 75 percent of these teens send text messages, according to the Pew Research Center's Pew 2010 Internet and American Life Project. More than half of these teens text daily. With texting outpacing other forms of communication, you have to wonder how this technology shift alters the social lives and behavior of today's teens.

Teen Texting Patterns

Two-thirds of the teens surveyed in the Pew research study reported that they are more apt to text with their cellphones than use them for spoken conversation. Their thumbs are flying, since half of the teens who responded send 50 or more text messages per day and one in three sends more than 100. In general, girls text more garrulously than boys, sending and receiving 80 messages a day to the male teen's 30 messages.

Social Impact

Texting means teens are never alone. Feeling constantly connected to friends can be a social boon, but the 24/7 access and the perception of being always available does have its minuses, especially with miscommunication. For example, a teen may get angry at a friend for not responding immediately and constantly to messages, not taking into consideration that the absent texter may be asleep or driving. Incessant contact with friends and getting multiple opinions on every topic may impact teens' decision-making skills, since they may feel insecure or incapable of thinking things through on their own and trusting their judgment.

More Social Effects

With more teens preferring text to talk, concerns rise over whether this phenomenon stunts emotional growth. A dearth of face-to-face conversations may keep teens from learning how to read facial expressions, body language or nuances in speech and develop empathy -- a skill learned from observing behavior in other people. Self-confidence also may be eroded by constant contact through texting, making teens overly dependent on friends and not fostering a sense of independence.

Texting and Risky Behavior

A study released in 2010 by the American Public Health Association reported that hyper-texting, texting more than 120 times a day, can lead to an increased risk of smoking, drinking and drug use, physical violence and sexual activity. Of the teens surveyed, the hyper-texters were twice as likely to have experimented with alcohol and three times more likely to have had sex than teens who messaged less often.

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