Teens, Technology, and Romantic Relationships
Jim Liebelt Jim Liebelt's Blog
- 2015 Oct 06
*The following is excerpted from an online article from the Pew Research Center.
Adolescence is a time of incredibly physical, social and emotional growth, and peer relationships – especially romantic ones – are a major social focus for many youth. Understanding the role social and digital media play in these romantic relationships is critical, given how deeply enmeshed these technology tools are in lives of American youth and how rapidly these platforms and devices change.
A new study from Pew Research Center reveals that the digital realm is one part of a broader universe in which teens meet, date and break up with romantic partners. 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.
While most teen romantic relationships do not start online, technology is a major vehicle for flirting and expressing interest in a potential partner. Along with in-person flirting, teens often use social media to like, comment, “friend” or joke around with someone on whom they have a crush. Among all teens:
- 55% of all teens ages 13 to 17 have flirted or talked to someone in person to let them know they are interested.
- 50% of teens have let someone know they were interested in them romantically by friending them on Facebook or another social media site.
- 47% have expressed their attraction by liking, commenting or otherwise interacting with that person on social media.
- 46% have shared something funny or interesting with their romantic interest online.
- 31% sent them flirtatious messages.
- 11% have made them a music playlist.
- 10% have sent flirty or sexy pictures or videos of themselves.
- 7% have made a video for them.
When it comes to “entry-level” flirting, teens who have never been in a romantic relationship are most comfortable letting someone know that they are interested in them romantically using the following approaches:
- Flirting or talking to them in person: 39% of teens without dating experience have done this.
- Friending them or taking part in general interactions on social media: Roughly one-third (37%) of teens without dating experience have friended someone they are interested in romantically and a similar 34% have liked, commented on a post or otherwise interacted with a crush on social media.
- Sharing funny or interesting things with them online. Some 31% of teens without dating experience have done this.
On the other hand, more advanced and sometimes overtly sexually suggestive online behaviors are most often exhibited by teens who have prior experience in romantic relationships:
- Fully 63% of teens with dating experience have sent flirtatious messages to someone they were interested in; just 14% of teens without dating experience have done so.
- 23% of teens with dating experience have sent sexy or flirty pictures or videos to someone they were interested in, compared with just 2% of teens without dating experience.
Most teens in romantic relationships assume that they and their partner will check in with each other with great regularity throughout the day.
- Overall, 85% of teens in a romantic relationship expect to hear from their partner or significant other at least once a day, if not more often.
- 11% expect to hear from their partner hourly.
- 35% expect to hear something every few hours.
- 38% expect to hear from their significant other once a day.
The most socially acceptable way to break up with someone is by having an in-person conversation, and these conversations are the most common way that breakups occur in a “real-world” setting. While most teens rate an in-person talk as the most acceptable way to break up with someone, some 62% of teens with relationship experience have broken up with someone in person, and 47% have been broken up with through an in-person discussion.
Text messaging – which is widely viewed as one of the least acceptable ways of breaking up with someone – is more common in the context of actual relationships than its perceived acceptability might indicate. Some 27% of teens with relationship experience have broken up with someone via text message, 31% have been broken up with in this way.
Phone calls, which are seen as the second-most acceptable way of breaking up with someone, are just as common as a breakup text; 29% of teens with relationship experience have broken up with someone over the phone, and 27% have been broken up with in this way.
And breakups through social media (which, like texts, are also viewed as having low levels of acceptability) are also relatively common – 18% of teens with dating experience have experienced or initiated a breakup by sending a private social media message, changing their relationship status on Facebook or posting a status update.
Source: Pew Research Center