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SALT LAKE CITY — Teen girls who are "compulsive texters" are more likely than their male counterparts to suffer academically because of it, according to a study released earlier this month.
A study published Oct. 5 in Psychology of Popular Media says that although teen boys and girls text in comparable rates, girls who have higher compulsive texting rates suffer academically while boys see no significant loss in academic performance, the study states.
"I guess it does (surprise me) because a lot of the times I hear that girls are smarter than guys and I see a lot of girls texting all the time," McKinli Cox, 14, said. Cox is a freshman at Oquirrh Hills Middle School.
Most teens use text messaging as their primary means of communication, the study notes, quoting the 2012 Pew Research Center report Teens, Smartphones & Texting. Sixty-three percent of teens text daily, compared with 39 percent calling on cell phones, 35 percent engaging in face-to-face communication outside of school, and 29 percent sending messages using social networks.
Pew also noted that the median number of texts teens send jumped from 50 in 2009 to 60 in 2011.
The texting study adapted the Internet Addiction Test to assess texting behaviors. The test was originally adapted from a compulsive gambling survey. Researchers defined compulsive texting as a "behavioral dependence on maladaptive patterns of texting."
Compulsive behaviors involved "trying and failing to cut back on the frequency of the behavior, becoming defensive when challenged about the frequency of the behavior, and feeling frustrated when the behavior cannot occur," the study said.
- 63 percent of teens text daily
- 39 percent call on cell phones
- 35 percent talk face-to-face with people outside of school
- 29 percent sending messages using social networks
Researchers from the University of Michigan, Chestnut Hill College and Bowling Green State University administered the Internet Addiction Test to 211 eighth-graders and 192 high school juniors at a junior high and high school "in a semi-rural town in the Midwest."
Forty-seven students, about 11.5 percent, said that they didn't text everyday and their surveys were excluded from the study.
Researches suggest the impact of compulsive texting differs by gender because of social development differences between the genders. The study says girls "experience a stronger need to remain in contact with peers." It also says that girls seek to develop and nurture relationships through texts more than boys — who typically use communication for information exchange.
"Maybe boys' feelings aren't as big. So, it doesn't affect their mood throughout the day and your mood affects your performance," Cox said.
Compulsive texting is just one facet of "problematic use," according to the study.
"Not only is the frequency, or amount, of time people spend texting related to their compulsive use, but their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to texting are involved as well," researchers said in the study.
When comparing compulsiveness and frequency, compulsiveness is the only predictor of poorer academic adjustment in the study.
"Maybe boys' feelings aren't as big. So, it doesn't affect their mood throughout the day and your mood affects your performance." McKinli Cox, freshman at Oquirrh Hills Middle School
The study suggested two possible reasons of greater vulnerability for teen girls.
First, the study suggests that teen girls are more likely to "engage in rumination or obsessive, preoccupied thinking ... focus on their intimacy in interpersonal relationships than (teen boys)." They said this can interfere with academic performance.
Second, researchers suggest that the content of texts girls send and receive are more distracting because the texts are used more for nurturing relationships.
"Although we did not examine the content of text messages in the present study, it seems likely that the differences in the nature of text messages received by females, compared to males, may also account for the gender differences in the relation between compulsive texting and academic functioning," the study said.
Riverton junior Rachel Jorgensen said she noticed that texting seems to be ubiquitous and equally impactful in her social circles. She said she knows teens who text too much. They seem to be more withdrawn and have greater desire to be on their phone than interact with people.
"It's kind of awkward and you feel kind of ignored," Jorgensen said of trying to interact with compulsive texters. "Maybe they just don't know how to talk with people face-to-face."