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Report: College Students Know When Texting Is Inappropriate, Do It Anyway

College students understand when it's inappropriate to read or send text messages, such as while sitting on the toilet or having sex, but many of them can't resist the temptation to do it anyway, according to a new study from Penn State researchers.

The researchers asked 152 college students to complete a 70-question survey about their attitudes toward texting in various situations as well as their general texting habits. The results revealed that while most students understand social norms and expectations related to texting behavior, the temptation to text can outweigh the social expectation to pay attention to their current situation.

Marissa Harrison, an associate professor of psychology at Penn State Harrisburg and one of the authors of the study, explained the disconnect between students' understanding and behavior in terms of evolutionary psychology. "We are all programmed to notice movement and change, so maybe those buzzes and bells of texting, just like certain sounds that used to indicate the charging of a predator, for example, reinforce the need to find out what is going on," said Harrison in a prepared statement.

Key findings from the study:

  • 34 percent of respondents said they sent and received 100 or more text messages each day;
  • 34 percent said they texted while taking a shower, even though they considered the behavior to be socially unacceptable;
  • 22 percent reported texting during religious services while agreeing that the behavior was inappropriate;
  • 11 percent said they texted during the Pledge of Allegiance while agreeing that it was inappropriate; and
  • 7.4 percent reported texting while having sex, even though they agreed it was wrong.

The researchers said that some behaviors, such as texting while using the bathroom or eating, are becoming more socially acceptable for college students. The researchers plan to conduct further studies to measure the attitudes and texting behaviors of other groups of people, such as high school students.

The study was published in a recent issue of the Social Sciences Journal.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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