It’s hard to picture today’s teens without their cellphones. They use text messaging as the most common form of communication, and many can barely make it through a meal or a class without having to fidget with their favorite hand-held constant companion. But texting is entering territories beyond being simply an annoying distraction: a recent study that involved more than 350 eighth and eleventh graders who texted on a daily basis found that about 12 % of girls could be described as compulsive texters, while only 3% of boys fit this description. And the bad news doesn’t stop there, especially for girls.

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For females, compulsive texting was associated with lower academic performance (as compared to “average” texters”), although it did not appear to have the same effect with boys. Compulsive texting may be associated with these detrimental effects in girls due to the content of the texts themselves. One theory is that girls are more likely to send and receive anxiety-provoking and/or emotional texts that focus on relationships and which make it difficult to focus on other tasks. Along with academic and attention concerns, those in the compulsive texters group often sent more than 100 texts in a single day, skipped sleep or had disrupted sleep due to texting, put off chores or homework in order to text, and lied to cover up how much they were texting. Many of these behaviors are similar to those exhibited by compulsive gamblers. While your teen is unlikely to do away with texting altogether, trying to mediate the behaviors by setting reasonable guidelines and modeling your own healthy behaviors for screen use is a step in the right direction.

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