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Welcome to William Van Winkle's blog, home for everything from notes on his latest ebooks to leftovers from his articles in CPU, Tom's Hardware, Smart Computing, and other media outlets. Check out his author pages at Amazon and Smashwords!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sex, Drugs, and Stating the Obvious

This bit of brilliance arrives today courtesy of the AP: "Teens who text 120 times a day or more — and there seems to be a lot of them — are more likely to have had sex or used alcohol and drugs than kids who don't send as many messages, according to provocative new research."

So at a time when online communications are now a normal part of how teens interact, it's somehow surprising that kids who text less, indicating that they're less social, are less prone to be involved in socially risky behavior?

"The study found those who text at least 120 times a day are nearly three-and-a-half times more likely to have had sex than their peers who don't text that much." Yeah, probably because if you're texting that much you know three-and-a-half times as many people to potentially have sex with!

"Hyper-texters were also more likely to have been in a physical fight, binge drink, use illegal drugs or take medication without a prescription." When do they find time for these activities? I thought they were busy texting!

Be warned. The sending of kitty picture messages
could be an indicator of dangerous teen behavior.
This is where the AP story starts to fall apart in earnest: "The texters estimated they average 118 texts per day." So the difference between normal/average and having a 3.5X greater chance of engaging in teen sex is two texts? That's two extra LOLs or OMGs. Maybe we should do a study that correlates teen drug use with the use of smileys, because each of those ominous, round symbols can make up an entire message.

Now, if a teen has text-crazy parents, this could explain the correlation. "Gawd, my mom will not stop texting me! She drives me insane -- I need a beer!"

But we can't make this correlation because the study doesn't break down how much of that 120+ daily texting happened with parents. Or what the nature of the messages were. Or how many smileys they contained. The article sets up technology to be the Agent of Evil, even if the author explicitly tries to state the contrary. A less "provacative" approach might have been to say "More Social Teens Do More Social Things, Including Bad Social Things."

Do teens who text over 120 times each day also play more sports? Are they more involved in student government or other positive extracurricular activities? Do they score higher on standardized tests?

This article and many others like it look to plant fear in the minds of parents and turn them against the technology that could also be used to enrich their children and give them key social and academic advantages.  If parents are doing their jobs properly, their kids will already be behaving like normal, reasonably well-adjusted teens, with or without higher than average amounts of texting.

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