SRCD 2019 Biennial Conference
March 21-23, 2019
Title: Texting Profiles and Fear of Missing Out in Early Adolescence
Event: Individual Differences in Adolescents’ Use of Communication Technology
Authors: Alumni Joanna C. Yau & Peter McPartlan
Abstract: The majority of teens in the United States text their friends (Lenhart, 2015). Research on texting typically focuses on its occurrence or not, but seldom on the reasons for texting (e.g., sharing emotional experiences, coordinating offline hangouts) or how individual characteristics might relate to texting behaviors. To fill this gap, we explore different profiles based on the reported frequency of texting across moods and situations. We also examine how Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), which is defined as “the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing” (Przybylski et al., 2013), influences texting behaviors.
Drawing from a larger ongoing study, we used survey data from 81 early adolescents (M= 12.44 years old; 54% female) about situations when they use texting apps, ratings of their likelihood to text during different mood states and for different activities, and endorsement of FOMO items. Items about texting when angry and frustrated were aggregated into one variable and texting when feeling excited and proud were aggregated into another because they were highly correlated (>.60).
Using cluster analyses, we identified four profiles. High texters (n=20) were teens who texted more frequently across all moods and situations, except for when they needed help on homework. Low texters (n=13) texted less frequently across all moods and contexts and medium texters (n=30) texted more frequently than low texters and less frequently than high texters. Practical texters (n=18) reported similar levels of texting as medium texters except when needing help with homework and wanting to make plans. In those situations, they reported levels of texting that were similar to those of high texters. Across all four groups, texting to make plans and when excited or proud were most common.
The clusters differed on three aspects. First, the relationship between cluster membership and gender trended towards not being independent (Fisher’s exact test, p = .098). Low texters was the only group where boys outnumbered girls. Second, the relationship between cluster membership and cell phone ownership was not independent (Fisher’s exact test, p = .045). The proportion of teens who did not have their own cell phones was much higher among the medium texters than in the other clusters. Third, FOMO scores differed by cluster; FOMO was lowest for the low texters.
Our results indicate that while there are similarities between groups, there is also great heterogeneity in how adolescents text. While some text both when experiencing positive and negative emotions and for practical purposes (e.g., arranging plans), others use texting primarily for practical purposes. Interestingly, the medium texters had the highest proportion of participants who did not have their own cell phone. Perhaps some of these teens would be high texters if they had their own phone. Although texting is ubiquitous in tween and teen life, the frequency and reasons behind texting vary, suggesting that this form of communication differs based on the practical and emotional needs of the child.