Teenagers, with their heads bent down and thumbs hovering deftly over their cellphones, have become the biggest texting population today. The average teenager sends and receives roughly 167 texts per day, turning texting into teenagers’ preferred way of communicating. New findings, published by the American Psychological Association, reveal how an obsessive type of texting can lead to worse performance at school, but only in girls.

"It appears that it is the compulsive nature of texting, rather than sheer frequency, that is problematic," said the study’s lead researcher Kelly Lister-Landman, a professor at Delaware County Community College, in a press release. "Compulsive texting is more complex than frequency of texting. It involves trying and failing to cut back on texting, becoming defensive when challenged about the behavior, and feeling frustrated when one can't do it."

For the study, researchers surveyed 211 girls and 192 boys in 8th and 11th grade, respectively. The students completed a questionnaire, which asked them how occupied they were with texting, if they ever tried to hide their texting behavior, and how they were doing in school. Researchers created a “Compulsive Texting Scale” (CTS) to measure how much texting interfered with their academic performance.

Boys and girls text at pretty much the same rate, however they each text for different reasons. Previous research has shown boys communicate across the Internet to share information, whereas girls communicate for social interaction and to nurture relationships; the same goes for texting. It’s the reason, researchers believe, that girls tend to become compulsive texters.

Compulsive behavior triggers and compels a person to do certain things because it feels right to them, according to Beyond OCD. It could take the form of an urge to touch, save, wash, clean, or check an object, and in this particular case it’s a cellphone. There is oftentimes a perception of discomfort that causes the person to repeat the behavior until they feel relieved and satisfied.

"Girls in this developmental stage also are more likely than boys to ruminate with others, or engage in obsessive, preoccupied thinking, across contexts,” Lister-Landman said. “Therefore, it may be that the nature of the texts girls send and receive is more distracting, thus interfering with their academic adjustment."

The higher a girl scored on the CTS, the worse her academic performance was; this was not true for boys. The emotional component of texting could explain why it becomes more of a distraction from school for girls than boys. Next, researchers want to broaden the amount of participants, cross-reference monthly phone bills, and interview parents to get a deeper understanding of texting behavior.

Lister-Landman said, "In addition, it would be interesting to study adolescents' motivations for texting, as well as the impact of multitasking on academic performance.”

Source: Lister-Landman K. The Role of Compulsive Texting in Adolescents Academic Functioning. Psychology of Popular Media Culture . 2015.