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Has Teen Texting Behavior Become Akin To Compulsive Gambling?

Has Teen Texting Behavior Become Akin To Compulsive Gambling?

It is sort of a common sight these days -- a teenager glued to his or her smartphone, busy text messaging somebody. But what is starting to become disturbing is that when you interrupt a teenager texting, the youngster seems to snap always or most of the time; or begins to actually lack sleep because of texting; or starts to lose track of chores or homework because of too much texting. 


Well, as reported by the New York Times, a recent study (published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture) shows that many teenage texters have a lot in common with the behavior of compulsive gamblers, which include losing sleep, encountering problems trying to reduce their texting activities, and even lie about the amount of time they spend text messaging.


As explained by Kelly Lister-Landman, an assistant professor of psychology at Delaware County Community College in Media, Pennsylvania and the lead author of the study, compulsivity is not just about the volume of text messages being sent by teenagers, but more about their engagement level with the texting activity itself? Do these teenagers feel anxious when they can not text? When they are eating dinner, do they feel the need to still text at the table? Do they have to check their smartphones every darn minute?


Based on the study’s results, teenage girls apparently text more compulsively compared to teenage boys. And intriguingly, the teenage boys who were found to be compulsive texters were not at risk of reduced school performance, unlike the teenage girls. The sad thing is that this is not the first time that a link has been found between poor academic showing and too much social media. A study conducted in 2014 suggested that the more African American and Hispanic teenagers spend time on Facebook, the lower their math grades become. Another study found that college students who texted while doing homework had lower grades, while another paper found that students who texted during class took less detailed notes and worse recall. Yet another experiment found that students who refrain from texting during lectures achieved better information retention and even scored better in exams. Too much web surfing has also been linked to sleep abnormalities.


Some experts are saying that the text messaging activity itself may not be the problem -- instead it may reveal an attention span related problem in the affected teenager. The fact of the matter is, for many teenagers, having a smartphone has become a convenient tool for escape especially for those who lack the attention to listen to a lecture or even do their homework. And what is their number one activity on their smartphones? Text messaging.


According to 2012 statistics from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, three quarters of teenagers own a smartphone and 63 percent revealed that they text daily, which is a bigger percentage compared to those who call using their phones, talk to people face to face, or email every day. The median number of texts daily for teenages is 60, with older girls having a median of 100 texts a day, and boys a media of 50.  


Still, parents of compulsive texting teenagers are not totally helpless. They can always be more strict in enforcing no smartphones during homework time, or establish zero smartphone protocols during dinner time, and even ban (or try at least) smartphones during bedtime.