Texting beats driving for teens

By Anne Collier

Texting doesn’t just beat out social networking for teens by more than 2 to 1, as Pew/Internet reported last spring, it also beats driving. Parent and Forbes writer Jim Motavalli has both anecdotal and numerical evidence, and I’m seeing the exact same thing at my house and in the research. Motavalli’s just-turned-16-year-old is entirely ho-hum about getting her driver’s license, and that was the case with my kid too. They have texting, after all. Motavalli backs up our (and probably your) parental experience with some interesting numbers. He cites Ad Age’s reporting that “the number of 16- and 17-year-olds with driver’s licenses dropped” significantly: from 50% and 75% in 1978 to 31% and 49% in 2008. He suggests that a key reason is that “they don’t put as much stock in actual physical visits” when they have digital ways of staying in touch, which – digitally – they can do constantly. To be fair to my son and his friends, when they were 14-16 a couple of years ago, they were also pretty proud of being “green” and riding their bikes to each other’s houses. Their in-person get-togethers have not been (and I don’t think ever will be) replaced by digital hanging out, and they are no less interested in getting together in the same room than we were at their age (or are). I think we’re seeing two things, where teens and digital social technologies are concerned: They’re using these technologies in addition to in-person socializing, not instead of it, and the technologies are allowing their contact with each other to be constant (see my post earlier this week about the dark side of this). I do feel strongly that we need to factor both those points into our parenting.

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