How does calling, texting and emailing affect teens socially?

September 19, 2014 by Dana Yates, Ryerson University

Near-constant smartphone use is a hallmark of today's teenagers. And while the phenomenon has given rise to new injuries – "text neck" is now a growing problem – how is all that calling, texting and emailing affecting teens socially?

"Since adolescents tend to use to interact with a clique, the overarching concern is they are losing opportunities to gain new information or perspectives by interacting with, for example, friends in other or adults," says Ryerson researcher Jeffrey Boase, a professor in the Faculty of Communication & Design.

But are phone-obsessed adolescents really missing out on valuable relationships? Or is the true complexity of teens' social connections being overlooked?

To better understand the different levels of bonding and relationships that Canadian adolescents form through their smartphones, Boase is leading a research study fuelled by $240,000 in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

The four-year project also involves co-investigator Rhonda McEwan of the University of Toronto, and researchers from Japan, Scandinavia and the United States.

The team is developing an innovative mobile application in order to capture data based on smartphone communication.

Next, a few hundred and adult Android smartphone users from across Canada will be recruited to install the application on their mobile devices. Following installation, the application will prompt a user to answer a brief set of onscreen survey questions.

The application will record the number of contacts that a user has, as well as the frequency of his or her calls, texts and emails without collecting the content or any personally identifying or sensitive information.

Finally, in-depth interviews will be conducted among a representative sample of 50 adolescent high school students in the Greater Toronto Area who have installed the application.

The goal is to gain further insight into what motivates adolescents to adopt certain interaction patterns. Through previous research, Boase found that teens use smartphones to communicate frequently with a small number of friends; however, there is high turnover among those peers over time. In contrast, adult smartphone users communicate less often with their contacts, but their circle remains fairly constant and includes a large number of friends and colleagues.

"In this study, we want to get a full picture of what's really happening in the population," says Boase. "By comparing adults with adolescents, we'll see exactly how teens' communication styles are unique."

Explore further: Peer influence more likely to encourage smoking, say sociologists

Related Stories

What doctors say to LGBT teens matters

September 19, 2014

When doctors speak to teens about sex and LGBT issues, only about 3 percent of them are doing so in a way that encourages LGBT teens to discuss their sexuality, and Purdue University researchers say other doctors can learn ...

When it comes to peer pressure, teens are not alone

December 5, 2013

and when they do, they like to have company. Teens are five times likelier to be in a car accident when in a group than when driving alone, and likelier to commit a crime or drink alcohol when with a group of peers.

Recommended for you

Study reveals patterns in STEM grades of girls versus boys

September 25, 2018

A new study, led by UNSW Sydney Ph.D. student Rose O'Dea, has explored patterns in academic grades of 1.6 million students, showing that girls and boys perform very similarly in STEM—including at the top of the class.

Chinese Cretaceous fossil highlights avian evolution

September 24, 2018

A newly identified extinct bird species from a 127 million-year-old fossil deposit in northeastern China provides new information about avian development during the early evolution of flight.

Ancient mice discovered by climate cavers

September 24, 2018

The fossils of two extinct mice species have been discovered in caves in tropical Queensland by University of Queensland scientists tracking environment changes.

The first predators and their self-repairing teeth

September 24, 2018

The earliest predators appeared on Earth 480 million years ago—and they even had teeth capable of repairing themselves. A team of palaeontologists led by Bryan Shirley and Madleen Grohganz from the Chair for Palaeoenviromental ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.