December 13, 2004
When East Valley teens have something to say, an increasing number put it in writing with instant messaging.
"Teenagers are fervent users of instant messaging. They love it," said Amanda Lenhart, a research specialist with the Pew Internet & American Life Project in Washington, D.C. "Connections to friends are incredibly important at their age."
Teens use Internet instant messaging to ask acquaintances on dates — or to break up with them. Sometimes they sign on just to say hi.
They write about sex, drugs, homework, parents or even the weather.
Two students at Scottsdale’s Cocopah Middle School used instant messaging last month to exchange threatening notes about a classmate. The incident sparked a police investigation and resulted in the suspension of both students.
"I wish I could tell you that that is uncommon, but it’s not," said Naomi Baron, a linguist at American University in Washington, D.C.
Some students report spending several hours a day exchanging messages with dozens or even hundreds of contacts.
Grace Kim, 16, a junior at Highland High School in Gilbert, said she used to be hooked on instant messaging — which she still enjoys today in moderation.
"I’d be on all night," she said. "I’d be addicted to it."
To protect their children from these lures, many parents have set Internet ground rules.
However, a survey that Lenhart conducted in 2001 suggests that parents and students often disagree about whether or not such rules exist. The study showed 61 percent of parents said they have rules about Internet use — while only 37 percent of teens reported such rules.
Josh James, a 15-year-old Highland freshman, said his parents have laid down rules about his use of instant messaging.
So have the parents of Annalisa Macaluso, a 13-yearold eighth-grader at BASIS Scottsdale charter school.
She said her parents forbid instant messaging after 10 p.m. and do not let her exchange messages with anybody they don’t know.
But she said many of her friends do not have parental guidelines in place.
"I know people who are on there for like five hours a day," she said.