Photo illustration. (By Victoria Wright)
Photo illustration.

By Victoria Wright

An in-depth look at compulsive texting

Study published by the American Psychological Association, JagWire survey and student accounts show effects of compulsive texting

November 13, 2015

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By Victoria Wright

Photo illustration.

Compulsive texting found in teens

Students can be negatively impacted by texting too much, study finds

Completing her homework after school, senior Ally Henderson finds the constant receival of texts from friends distracting, hindering her ability to finish her assignment.

“I’ll be doing an assignment and someone will text me and we’ll have a full conversation. I’ll have to end it and explain that I’ve got homework,” Henderson said. “I get the work done, but it takes a lot longer to finish than it should.”

Like Henderson, most American teenagers text on a regular basis: In 2012, a study done by senior research specialist Amanda Lenhart and published the to Pew Internet & American Life Project found 63 percent of teenagers said they text every day, and only one percent said they text less than once a week.

A study done by Delaware County Community College researcher Kelly M. Lister-Landman and published by the American Psychological Association showed an abundance of Delaware County area students that compulsively text. Her study did not find the cause of compulsive texting; it just showed that compulsive texting does exist.

sending-stats-webLister-Landman used a questionnaire consisting of questions such as, “Do you ever find that you text longer than you intended?” and “Do you ever try to cut down the amount of texting and fail?” The questions determined if the student was considered a compulsive texter. The study also showed that academic performance tends to decrease as compulsive texting increases in teenage girls, but not in teenage boys.

“We asked questions about the participants daydreaming about their phone, feeling uneasy when they weren’t able to use it, trying to cut back on texting and failing, and so on,” Lister-Landman said via email.

The study also referenced a 2013 study by Nila Nathan and Jamie Zeitzer published in BioMed Central public health, which indicated that there was a correlation between the perceived need for texting and daytime sleepiness. Lister-Landman’s study claimed it could be this lack of sleep that is causing lower academic performance, and that the perceived need to text demonstrates compulsive behavior.

In line with the findings of the study, texting has affected Henderson’s sleeping patterns.

“I stay up late texting [and] I do get less sleep because of it,” Henderson said.

According to Lister-Landman, researchers need more data about the subject in order to find the causes of compulsive texting.

“So far, we haven’t determined any causes for compulsive texting. At this stage, we’re simply trying to see how many people are affected by it and how we can classify it,” Lister-Landman said.  There isn’t enough research on compulsive texting yet to be able to answer the question about the cause(s) of it. It could relate to personality characteristics, brain functioning, learned behaviors that are modeled after the behaviors of others, and the list goes on and on.”

Based on a JagWire survey using the same questions as Lister-Landman’s study, almost 30 percent of students always check texts before doing something else they have to do.

Lister-Landman’s research also found that girls are more negatively affected by compulsive texting.

“As compulsive texting increases, academic adjustment decreases — for girls only,” Lister-Landman said. “Girls likely have higher rates because texting is a very social behavior, and girls tend to be more preoccupied with talking about and thinking about their social relationships than are males.”

At Mill Valley, choir director Sheree Stoppel has seen more cellphones in the halls than ever before.

“I know that I see a lot more cellphones in the hallways,” Stoppel said. “If I have plan and I’m running to the office and there’s somebody going from one classroom to another, they’re on their phone.”

A self-proclaimed “cellphone police,” Stoppel does not allow students to have a cellphone on their person. She stipulates that students’ cellphones have to remain in their backpacks, which are set to the side during the class. Stoppel believes cellphones distract from the class.

“People think they can multitask and they can’t, because they’re not in the moment. Whatever you do in a class, it should take priority, that should be the focus,” Stoppel said.

I’m doing a math problem, and then I send a text, and then I come back and I’m completely lost at what I was doing.”

— senior Austin Mackey

While senior Austin Mackey doesn’t text very regularly during the day, he finds that multitasking becomes harder when he does.

“If I ever do text when I study, everything goes a lot slower,” Mackey said. “I’m doing a math problem, and then I send a text, and then I come back and I’m completely lost at what I was doing.”

Despite being an avid texter, Henderson still sees the problem with compulsive texting.

“For some it’s all they do, and some people nowadays hide behind their phones and say whatever they want and ignore their surroundings,” Henderson said.

Lister-Landman does not see compulsive texting becoming less of a problem in the future, but hopes for more research in order to more accurately classify the effects of it.

“As cellphone usage is only increasing and is easier/more affordable over time, it seems safe to say that compulsive texting will continue to be an issue going forward,” Lister-Landman said. “Therefore, it’s imperative to build on our research since texting most certainly isn’t going away.”

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Senior Rohit Biswas goes without texting

Biswas did not text for 24 hours


What was it like not texting for 24 hours?

At the beginning it was a lot harder than I’d have expected it to be because you want to think you’re not so dependent on texting. But as the day went on, anything unexpected that happened in my day, like I had to leave school to go on a debate trip to go talk to some middle schoolers, I wanted to tell people about that but I couldn’t actually text them to tell them. So it can be much harder to communicate with people at their convenience. Because texting, at its essence, is letting people respond at their convenience, and that’s probably the easiest way to talk to people at school, and you just couldn’t do that. One of my friends was out of class as well, couldn’t talk to anyone about it because I couldn’t easily text them about it. So it’s just that whenever something new or unexpected happens you see the need for texting. We also had a football game that night, and not texting during it makes it, in the stands, kind of boring because you’re stuck where you are, really, and you really can’t walk around and talk to people very much. Texting fills that gap during that moment, so not being able to text kind of diminishes that somehow.

Did your experience help you understand your own texting habit better?

I kind of realized that texting doesn’t really replace anything for me, and I guess that’s what I thought beforehand. It just helped me realize how prevalent [texting] is in my life, because I’ll text someone and not even think about, like, ‘hey, I’m texting them,’ but physically and mentally stopping myself from that action that I consider habitual has just kind of opened my eyes to how much I do it.

Could you go longer without texting?

I feel like I could, but I would not enjoy it. I also could survive getting drowned for a minute and a half, but that doesn’t mean it’s a pleasant experience. Anyone can [stop texting], it’s just, why would you?

Do you feel like you could go without texting indefinitely?

Texting I feel is a necessity, but it’s one that you can live without for some time. Because whenever I go to Europe or India, I have to go without texting for a decent amount of time, because you can’t text, because of roaming charges, etc. etc. You just feasibly can’t text people. So, because of that, I feel like I’m used to not texting people for long periods of time, it’s just not a pleasant experience.

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Sophomore Maci Montee goes without texting

Montee did not text for 48 hours


Overall, what was your experience like?

[Day one] wasn’t too bad, pretty easy actually … I was more productive with my day and wasn’t on my phone as much. [Day two] was weird. [I didn’t] get to make plans or just in general texting my friends, I got pretty bored. But two days of no texting isn’t that bad.

What was it like not texting for 48 hours?

It was kinda weird, not gonna lie. I’m not used to it so when I woke up [the first day] I was gonna text my friends and make plans for after school but then I remembered that I can’t do that.

How much longer do you think you’d be able to go without your phone?

I think I could go a long time. The one thing that would be weird would be not being able to get on social media, I do that a lot when I get bored. No texting wasn’t too bad, I could go awhile without that.

Did this change your perspective on texting at all?

Kind of. I feel like people are so into texting and being on their phones all the time that going without texting for a little bit is good for you because you’re actually involved in things and overall more productive.

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Adults are just as dependent on technology

After my mom lost her phone, she constantly used mine


Adults are always talking about how teenagers are constantly on their phones. What they don’t realize is that they’re just as guilty of always being on their phones.  

I experienced this first hand with my mom over the summer. We were visiting my aunt in Hutchinson when my mom left her cellphone sitting on a bench at the Cosmosphere. After we’d gone through the museum, she realized that she didn’t have it. Losing her phone like this was devastating to her; she felt like she was missing a vital part of her everyday life.

After searching for her phone for about an hour, we decided that it must have been stolen.

At that point, I had almost no use of my cellphone as my mom was using my phone to call others and let them know what had happened. Additionally, she called our cell phone service to shut off her phone, as there is so much personal information on it.

Not having my phone was strange for me because I … didn’t have anything to occupy my time.”

— Margaret Mellott

Not having my phone was strange for me because I had zero use of it and didn’t have anything to occupy my time. It also brought to my attention how much my mom uses her phone and how much information she puts on it. Of course, she was just trying to figure out what to do but it still demonstrates how dependent everyone, not just teenagers, are on their phones.

After six hours without her phone, my mom finally got it back. When the ordeal was all said and done, it was clear to me how crippled she felt without it. Looking back at the entire situation, it feels silly how concerned my mom was without her phone but at the same time we’ve put so much information on our phones that it would be hard to not freak out if that ever happened.

In a normal day-to-day basis, both adults and teens use their phones to call, text, take photos, get directions and do so much more. With the technological advancements made in the past few years, the number of smart phones has increased exponentially. We have the world at our finger tips and have become accustomed to having it all with us. When faced with the absence of our phone, it’s easy to see how dependent we have become.

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Compulsive texting hurts productivity

My attachment to texting leads to procrastination


As a teen, it can be hard to admit that phones can have a negative impact on lives. As a fellow teenager and user of the cellphone, I can state that in the few past months, I have indeed developed a certain “addiction” towards texting and the overall usage of my phone.

I was never really into texting; that was all until my friends and I created a group chat for us. I would have never thought of myself using technology for communication so often but I found myself enticed to the conversations we were carrying.

This ability to communicate daily and regularly — even during school — was a result of my desire to feel connected to my group of friends. In my opinion, the want to text is not an addiction in itself, but it’s a want to feel a social connection that leads to compulsive texting.

I’m sure many can relate to this feeling. I felt like I needed to text more in order to feel more accepted in this group of friends and feel more connected towards them. Our conversations would drag on until late at night and even sometimes until the morning.

This, of course, dramatically impacted the way I concentrated on my homework. I already arrive home late from musical practices and now I am finding myself having difficulty completing my assignments due to the constant vibration of my phone.

Not only does the vibration encourage me to check my phone, but a strange mental need to glance every few minutes back at my phone keeps me off topic. This need is driven by my want to feel as if I do matter to my friends and that my friends are wanting to communicate with me.

Of course then, the constant urge to check my phone kept me from completing my homework the night before they were due. For a week, I did little to no homework and rushed to complete my assignments before school and in class.

Tests that I needed to study for were ignored for my urge to text my friends instead.”

— Jason Chen

The struggle to complete assignments resulted in my hindered ability to focus in class. During the time I was into compulsive texting the most, my grades were most directly affected. Tests that I needed to study for were ignored for my urge to text my friends instead. As expected, my tests didn’t go as well as they could have.

This was a realization for me that I needed to control the amount I texted and my attachment to my phone. It’s perfectly fine to text your friends, but when it starts to affect your ability to concentrate and carry on with daily life, self-control is needed.

As a person that has experienced compulsive texting first hand, I understand that it’s difficult to obtain self-control, but it’s needed to keep from addiction.

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