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Anti-social texting study: New methods confirm old theory

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This hardly seems like news. The author himself likens texting to talking. So if one were to examine the tiny proportion of spoken communication that’s anti-social, would one be surprised if it predicted anti-social behavior? What’s interesting, here, is that the researchers seem to attribute influence not just to the content of the communication they examined but to the medium as well.

Ehrenreich referred to texting’s “unique characteristics that make it all the more powerful,” providing “a new opportunity for peer influence,” according to LiveScience.com. This at best muddies the conclusion. Is it based on the evidence gathered – the influence of peers expressed in the content – or speculation about the influence of the technology itself?

Fortunately, “the study’s collection of messages also found that texting could be a positive force for adolescents,” LiveScience reports, referring to the overwhelming majority of texts (98+ percent) that contained “positive, meaningful communication,” as Ehrenreich described it.

But that wasn’t news, that the authors were able to use only about 2 percent of all the collected texts to map them to reports of anti-social offline behavior. It didn’t show up in coverage at AlbanyTribune.com, where the headline read: “Beware The Texting: Text Messages Make It Easier For Kids to Misbehave.” Other headlines about the study were “Teens’ Texts Predict Bad Behavior” and “Delinquent Behavior May Arise from Anti-Social Texting.” At least the latter qualified “texting” with “anti-social.”

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