A recent study has shown that compulsive texting affects academic performance, especially when girls engage in this behavior.
The findings, published on October 5 in the journal Psychology of Popular Media, were revealed as part of the Pew Center study of Millennial communication habits.
Participants consisted in 403 students in the 8th and 11th grades, from a semi-rural Midwestern town. Researchers analyzed the academic performance of each respondent, and also asked each person included in the survey to complete a 14-item questionnaire regarding mobile texting frequency.
For example, the students were asked if they texted longer than intended, if they experienced frustration when they had to delay texting someone or if they feared life in the absence of testing would be uneventful and sad.
Scientists also established a “compulsive texting scale”, in order to carefully assess how obsessive message sending behavior really was.
“Compulsive texting (…) involves trying and failing to cut back on texting, becoming defensive when challenged about the behavior, and feeling frustrated when one can’t do it”, explained study lead author Kelly Lister-Landman, assistant professor of psychology at Delaware County Community College.
Researchers determined that, unsurprisingly, texting enjoys great popularity among teens, much more than voice calls, which are favored by just 39% of the respondents.
Around 63% of the participants estimated that they send and receive an average of 167 texts every day. On the other hand, a mere 35% of them claimed to prefer face-to-face interaction.
Also, it was discovered that while heavy texting is favored by both genders, girls are 20% more likely to have a compulsive approach towards this behavior. 12% of the female respondents were compulsive texters, compared to 3% of the males.
A possible explanation for this disparity between sexes could be closely related to the driving forces that make people text. Prior research has shown that male subjects use text messages as a means of transmitting information.
In contrast, female subjects resort to texting in order to socialize and build closer bonds with their families, friends and romantic partners. As a result, they get more emotionally involved in this process, and sometimes lose sleep just in order to keep texting, till the early hours of morning.
This greatly affects their grades, much more than it happens in the case of their male counterparts: 14% of the girls that text excessively are C students, in contrast with 4% of the ordinary texters. Moreover, boys who indulge in heavy texting usually get B’s or even better grades.
While it would be easy to identify compulsive texting as an addiction, study authors opt to consider it a “maladaptive behavior” instead. This suggests that while such a propensity might be detrimental to individuals, it isn’t far-reaching enough to be classified as a clinical disorder.
Former studies had also suggested a connection between texting and poor academic performance. For example, findings have shown that texting while doing homework results in lower grades, and sending messages during class lowers the capacity to take notes and assimilate information.
This new research does have some limitations, such as the fact that the participants were predominantly white students, who were all enrolled at a conservative school from central U.S. Also, a follow-up study must be conducted, in order to better investigate the reasons behind compulsive texting.
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