College Kids Text During Showers, Sex And Class. We're Doomed.

04/08/2015 08:06 am ET | Updated Apr 08, 2015

College kids admit to texting during class, while taking a shower and even while having sex -- even though they know the behavior is inappropriate, according to a recent Penn State study.

The participants, 152 college students, responded to a 70-question survey about their personal texting habits and what they thought about the appropriateness of texting in certain situations. They were also asked to rate the social acceptability of certain texting scenarios, like, "Ashton is sending text messages while eating” or, “Sam is sending text messages while having sex,” as well as report on whether they themselves had ever texted in a similar scenario.

More than a third of participants (34.4 percent) said they either sent or received more than 100 texts per day, and all of them checked their phone an average of about 16 times per hour (about every four minutes) for texts. The students also admitted to a few scenarios in which they believed texting was inappropriate, but admitted to doing something similar anyway. For example, here are a few prompts from the survey:

1. Jessie is on the phone with Casey when Jessie receives a text message from Quinn. Instead of hanging up the phone with Casey first, Jessie responds to Quinn’s text message while still talking on the phone. — 75.3 percent of participants have done this.

2. Quinn is texting during class. — 84.7 percent of participants have done this.

3. While Dee was supposed to be working, Dee sent text messages on the job. — 78.7 percent of participants have done this.

4. Morgan is sending text messages during a movie Morgan paid to see. — 70.7 percent of participants have done this.

5. Kendall is texting while feeding Kendall’s child. — 54 percent of participants have done this.

6. Sam is sending text messages while having sex. — 7.4 percent of participants have done this.

What does this mean, beyond the fact that human civilization is doomed to become a horde of rude, bent-neck, mobile phone-addicts bumping into each other on the street (and in the bedroom)?

We kid, we kid. But seriously, the researchers examining the texting habits of Generation Z (as they’ve been labeled so-far) question whether the survey results signal that participants truly think certain texting scenarios are inappropriate, or are actually signaling a new standard of etiquette when it comes to mobile phones.

"About 89% of participants report texting while eating, and about 83% said they have text messaged while going to the bathroom,” wrote the researchers in the study. Whereas some people may deem this odd, most college students agree that eating and toilet texts are the new normal.

One reason young people seem to be permanently attached to their phones could be that they crave immediate hyper-connection with the people they love and care about most.

But if that were true, why would participants turn to their phones for said connection, even in the midst of an in-person connection with someone they can see in the flesh? The researchers put the question this way:

It is of interest that people choose to commit interpersonal breaches and compromise being fully, interpersonally engaged with the important people around them by connecting with others in a faceless, often incomplete, impersonal mode, even when admitting this is not the right thing to do. Investigators may want to examine why texting technology can distract and therefore detract from in-person interactions.

Of course, there are caveats to this survey. The sample wasn't representative of a U.S. population, and in order to have a truly accurate picture of Gen Z's texting habits, there needs to be a comparison group of older texters. But for now, the researchers have concluded that their study reveals that rules around the etiquette of texting still exist -- it’s just that they generally don’t apply to people in the moment that they’re texting.

The study was published in the Social Science Journal.

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