Texting habits change as students age, study shows
Studies show that texting decreases after high school for young adults
Published: Monday, April 26, 2010
Updated: Monday, April 26, 2010 06:04
According to studies released last week by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project and the University of Maryland, high school and college students text message — a lot.
The results of both studies are not necessarily shocking, "unless you've never met a teenager," Assistant Professor of Sociology Sarah Sobieraj said.
"It's surprising that there has even been so much media attention about the Pew study. I find it fascinating that that particular finding got so much press," Sobieraj said.
Despite the fact that the prevalence of texting is no surprise, a close look at both studies sheds new light on the progression of the texting habits of young adults and the differences in texting behavior between students in high school and college.
The Pew Research Center study found that the average girl between the ages of 12 and 17 sends and receives 80 text messages each day, while the average teenage boy of the same age group sends and receives 30.
One in three teens sends or receives over 100 text messages daily. Though teenagers text frequently, they only make or receive a comparatively miniscule five phone calls a day. The results of the Pew study did not indicate whether the conversational style of Blackberry Messenger, a form of instant texting available on Blackberry phones without the charges attached to regular text messaging, was factored into the data in any way.
The University of Maryland study involved depriving 200 college students of any and all digital media for 24 hours. According to the report, many showed signs of anxiety and cravings similar to those common among drug addicts and alcoholics going through withdrawal by the end of the testing period.
The University of Maryland study did not track the average number of text messages participants sent, but did show how attached many students have become to their phones.
One explanation for why texting among high schoolers is more prevalent than texting among their college counterparts is that college students live in close proximity, and there is no division of space between school and home. High school students can only spend a narrow space of time together within a given day and thus text when separated.
However, the trend of decreased texting after graduating high school does not seem to apply to many Jumbos. Some stated that their texting habits have risen (or worsened, depending on one's point of view) since enrolling at Tufts.
"I actually text a lot more now," freshman Anya Glandon said. "I guess it's a combination of staying in touch with my high school friends now that we're all spread out, but also because I'm not necessarily seeing all of my friends here frequently throughout the day, so I text them to plan hanging out or just to talk. It's different because in high school, you see your friends in the hallways and in classes every day."
Freshman Carly Machlis, too, found her cell phone bill increasing after enrolling at Tufts. "I actually think that I text more in college than I did in high school, because I knew that I would always see my friends at lunch time or in home room or in gym," Machlis said.
The fact that Machlis can simply walk to a friend's dorm or meet on campus at any time of day or night doesn't lessen her need to text; in fact, she feels that the more free-form nature of college living causes her to rely on text messaging even more.
"Even though I live in closer proximity to my college friends than I did to my high school friends when I was in high school, in college everyone has different schedules, so it's just harder to coordinate," she said. "I would call instead of text, but it's just easier and more convenient to shoot off a quick text than to have a phone conversation because I'm always doing 20 things at once here, and my life is much more hectic in college than it was in high school."
Olivia Van Iderstine, a senior at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, said that she texts 100 times a day and doesn't anticipate a decrease in that number when she matriculates at Vanderbilt University in the fall.
"Obviously I haven't started yet, but I assume I will text about the same. Based on the heavy presence of phones I saw on campus there, I don't plan on giving up texting or anything," Van Iderstine said. "It's fast and easy, and I know that the recipient will get the message, and it's the most guaranteed way to get in contact with someone during school hours."
Ayala Mansky, a senior at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, said that she anticipates that she'll text about as often in college as she currently does, but for different reasons.
"My mom texts me to find out where I am and when I'm coming home for dinner and if I can pick something up at the market for her, and I text her back to fill her in." she said. "Obviously that won't be happening next year, but I'll need to keep in touch with my high school friends and also [make] plans with my college friends, so the number shouldn't change that much."