We’ve all heard the warnings: Don’t use your smartphone before bed. Don’t sleep with your phone beside your bed. Our phones consume us, more than we would like. But the all-encompassing nature of mobile communication is.
We’ve all heard the warnings: Don’t use your smartphone before bed. Don’t sleep with your phone beside your bed. Our phones consume us, more than we would like. But the all-encompassing nature of mobile communication is even worse for teens – girls in particular.
We know that teens use their phones a lot, but apparently texting is the main mode of communication among teens, far surpassing face-to-face interactions. Teens send an average of 167 texts per day. One-hundred-sixty-seven! And they’re supposed to be in school most of the day – which means the majority of that texting must be crammed into post-school time. And that means homework is no doubt getting interrupted for mini-conversations.
A study published in the American Psychological Association’s journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture found that teen girls who become addicted to texting are risking their grades. For some reason, compulsive texting by boys does not impact their academics quite as much (but the experts aren’t saying their studies go unscathed, and they do text just as much as the girls).
The lead researcher on the study, Kelly M. Lister-Landman, PhD, of Delaware County Community College, says, “Compulsive texting is more complex than frequency of texting. It 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.”
The researchers found that some teens were losing sleep because they were staying up late to text. They became so preoccupied with texting that they sometimes lied to cover up the habit. They couldn’t attend an event, have a conversation, watch a movie, or do schoolwork without picking up their phone and communicating with someone or answering an incoming text.
Women, let’s face it, are multi-taskers by nature. We are hardwired to do many different things at one time – that’s just how our brains work. No one is saying we’re excelling at all of these activities, but that doesn’t stop us from attempting to get as many things done at one time as possible – writing an article while keeping an ear on the kids in the next room while wondering what there is in the fridge to make for dinner while trying to remember where one of your son’s birthday presents is hidden… but that’s just me.
Teen girls have a lot on their minds too. Their texting purposes are believed to be used mainly for social interaction and to nurture relationships, while boys are more likely to convey information. “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 academic adjustment,” says Landman.
In other words, when Will sends a text of “I’m studying” to Eve, he probably means he’s studying. Eve, however, might stare at that text and try to infer greater meaning from it: “Is he with Sophia right now? Is he going to see Sophia later? Is he going to ask me out for the weekend? Is he blowing me off?” And then Eve will pore over any earlier communications with Will to try and answer the questions she’s created for herself. And then she might text a girlfriend to mull over the two-word text Will sent. It’s a vicious cycle. And this kind of obsessing can seriously impact the geometry test Eve should be studying for.
The study didn’t focus on adolescents’ motivations for texting or the direct impact of multitasking on academic performance, so I’m taking some liberties with my interpretation. But you get the idea: Girls get distracted by texting. But they also rely on texting to maintain their relationships, romantic or friendly. While texting as a method of enhancing social importance can be very disruptive, taking away the phone entirely isn’t going to be helpful – it’ll just stress your girl out more. So if you have a teen girl in your home and you’re concerned about her grades, it can be detrimental to ban the phone completely, but it’s critical to prohibit the smartphone being by her side when she’s doing homework or studying so she can focus.