Are Teens Hiding Behind The Screen?

By Guest Author Jonathan Nielsen

picture of doll sitting in empty stadium“R U 4 real?” The use of phrases like this demonstrate how technology has managed to merge itself with the social life of teenagers in the form of instant messaging, text messaging and social networking sites such as Facebook. A little observation will tell anyone that a large percentage of a teen’s time is spent texting on his or her phone or chatting online. With so much time devoted to these activities, researchers want to know if there are any side effects.

Pierce set out to examine the effects that teen usage of these technologies might have on their social life. She conducted a study that sought to determine if there was a relationship between recent social technologies and shyness among teenagers. In the study, 280 teenagers answered survey questions regarding how much time they spend on socially interactive technologies such as text messaging, instant messaging, and social networking sites. In addition to finding out how much time teenagers spent on these technologies, the survey also asked questions regarding each teen’s feelings toward face-to-face communication.

The results revealed a clear connection between social introversion and the socially interactive technologies. Those who disliked personal communication were more likely to use socially interactive technologies. This suggests that these new technologies are providing shy individuals with a comfortable means of communication, while replacing any opportunities that these individuals may have had to get over their timidity by practicing face-to-face communication. Lastly, the author concludes that since these technologies are relatively new, society has yet to discover all of the possible consequences.

With the results of this study in mind, it is crucial for teens to evaluate their personal use of these technologies. Do they substitute personal time with friends for time on Facebook? Do they text their friends more than they call them? Are they using these technologies as a way to avoid their social anxieties? As foreign as these problems may be to parents and teachers, the answers to these questions are important to a teen’s future success in life. Face-to-face communication is vital in the workplace, and many teenagers may not be properly developing the necessary interpersonal skills; therefore, these questions must not be avoided. All of this is to say that teenagers must come to realize that they are an experimental generation– No other generation has grown up using these social technologies, and the consequences of these technologies are poorly known.

Pierce, T. (2009). Social anxiety and technology: Face-to-face communication versus technological communication among teens. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 1367-1372.

Texting While Driving as a Pre-Meditated Act

Texting while driving image of a road From DQMountaingirlAs any Oprah watcher can tell you, texting while driving is a problem. We can make it illegal (it is in a majority of States), but that doesn’t necessarily eliminate what to many still seems like an innocuous act. A coinciding approach involves looking at the reasons people engage in the behavior, and engaging motivations by starting with intentions. Nemme and White took this approach, a variation of the Theory of Planned Behavior, in their study of 17-24 year-old Australian students.

They looked at five factors that contributed to intention to text while driving:

  1. Attitude towards texting
  2. Subjective norm, or the person’s perceptions about how others feel about texting while driving
  3. Past behavior
  4. Group Norm, or if the people they know read or send text messages while driving
  5. Moral Norm, or if the person feels it is a right or wrong action

Following the theory of planned behavior, these factors lead to intention, which then leads to behavior (measured a week later as both sending and receiving texts). Perceived behavioral control, or how much control the person feels she/he has over his/her behaviors, also influences both intention and behavior.

They found that 1) attitude predicted intentions to send and read, 2) subjective norm and perceived behavior control predicted sending but not reading, 4) past behavior is the strongest predictor of intentions and behavior, and 4) adding group norms and moral norms (an addition to the Theory of Planned Behavior) strengthened the model they posited in the paper.

Ultimately, one of the best ways to deter people involves stressing that driving while texting is a shameful behavior, and that your friends do not do it, nor do they approve of it. Think of how you never thought a thing of one-time-only usage bags for your groceries, until you realized you were one of the only people who didn’t bring their own. Others retain a large hold on our behaviors even though we would like to think we left this behind long-ago in high school.

Nemme, H. E., & White, K. M. (2010). Texting while driving: Psychosocial influences on young people’s texting intentions and behavior. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 42, 1257-1265.