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They're on Facebook, but talking beats texting among teens

June 27, 2012|By Michelle Maltais
  • The majority of teens have spent time on social networks and text heavily, but most still prefer good, old-fashioned face-to-face communication over everything else, according to a new study.
The majority of teens have spent time on social networks and text heavily,… (Common Sense Media )

Mom and Dad, when your teen says, "But everybody's doing it," they're actually telling the truth -- not that that should sway you.

Digital communications are an integral part of daily life for an overwhelming majority of American teens, according to findings from Common Sense Media.

Indeed, when it comes to networking online, 90 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds have tried some form of social media, with the majority of them hanging out on Facebook, the survey reports. But talking still beat out texting as the preferred mode of social networking.

This socially connected and tech savvy generation -- Gen S, so to speak -- is the first to have gone through their entire teen years with Facebook and other social networking sites at their impetuous adolescent fingertips, as the report points out.

Knowledge Networks conducted the online survey of 1,030 teens 13- to 17-years-old earlier this year for Common Sense, a San Francisco nonprofit and advocacy organization that studies the effects of media and technology on children and families.

The interminable hours they spend on the phone is a flash-forward reflection of the hours many of us before them spent as teenagers chatting on the phone, except that they are literally chatting on the phone, through text messages. Eighty-seven percent of teens have exchanged text messages, with 68 percent texting at least once daily, the study said.

The gap is fairly sizable between the social media haves and have-nots: 68 percent of teens surveyed said they have a presence on Facebook, while 25 percent said they didn't have one at all. Google+, Twitter and Myspace ranked in the single digits among the teens.

Some parents and advocates continue to express concern about the emotional and psycho-social effect navigating the immediate and distantly intimate nature of social networks might have on their kids. Interestingly, most teens don't think their use of social media affects their emotional well-being, but more report a positive than negative effect, Common Sense reported.

Many said it helps to boost their confidence and compassion. In fact, a little more than half of online teen social butterflies surveyed said social media has mainly helped their friendships, compared with 4 percent saying it has caused damage.

Apparently, however, the importance of nuance, inflection and nonverbal expression isn't lost on today's teens. (After all, emoticons can't always do the trick.) Overall, face-to-face communication beat out face-to-screen as the preferred type of interaction, the survey showed.

Almost half said they would rather chat with their buds in person than text them, which ranked as the second favorite way to communicate, with 33 percent resting their thumbs long enough to give it a thumbs up. They said it was more fun and easier to understand what people mean, the survey showed.

And as one teen is reported to have said, "Moments only happen in person."

Indeed. There's just something special about actually seeing your friend shoot water out of her nose when you say something funny that ROFL on a Facebook status can't come close to replicating.

Texting ranked higher than other communication vehicles such as instant messaging because the teens said it was quick, easy and gave them time to ponder a response. And social networking was hardly a go-to option, with only 7 percent choosing Facebook as a favorite, and Twitter netting only 1 percent of followers among this group.

Despite their overall connection with digital communication, the teens surveyed found that this always-on lifestyle does have its drawbacks. Among teens with cellphones, 41 percent said they were "addicted" to their phones.

And, as it turned out, some said they got tired of being wired, with 43 percent saying they wished they could "unplug" once in a while. 

No word on how many of their parents agreed heartily.

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Teens text for study, don't hold back profanity, sex, drugs

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