You might think there’s nothing particularly shocking here — it’s just teenagers being teenagers. And indeed some experts are putting data to use calming parents’ fears. A Pew report out this month explains that “the digital realm is one part of a broader universe in which teens meet, date and break up with romantic partners.” Social media is one piece of a puzzle: “Online spaces are used infrequently for meeting romantic partners, but play a major role in how teens flirt, woo and communicate with potential and current flames.”
Are we supposed to feel better knowing that teens aren’t picking up strangers online? Maybe, but all of that “wooing” — does that word cover boys sending pictures of their privates? — is different in many ways. Most importantly because of how incessant it is. According to the Pew survey, more than a third of teens in romantic relationships expect to hear from their partners every few hours and another 11 percent expect to hear from them every hour.
In The Wall Street Journal, Alison Gopnik reports on a new study in Perspectives in Psychological Science. The researchers’ “conclusion is that teenagers’ experience in the mobile world largely parallels rather than supplants their experience in the physical world. Teenagers mostly use mobile devices to communicate with friends they already know offline. They can have bad online experiences, but they are the same sort of bad experiences they have offline.”