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Title: Adolescents’ Instrumental and Expressive Text Messaging Behavior and their Friendship Quality: a Perceived Affordances-Approach
Authors: Vanden Abeele, Mariek
Schouten, Alexander P.
Antheunis, Marjolijn L. #
Issue Date: Feb-2013
Conference: Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap location:Rotterdam date:7-8 February 2013
Abstract: While current approaches to the study of contemporary Mobile Youth Culture have been valuable in revealing similarities in teen mobile phone use, limited attention has gone out to the role of demographic, social and psychological antecedents in explaining adolescent mobile phone use. We propose the notion of ‘perceived affordances’ as a promising concept for future research into the differences between adolescents.
The affordances-concept reflects itself in the commonalities in teen mobile phone use (as emphasized in Apparatgeist theory): mobile phones aid in teens’ identity development by affording them a private communication channel with which they can communicate with their friends (and family) anytime and anyplace, and - in the case of text messaging – by affording them increased control over their writings. Affordances are also relational (i.e. they need to be perceived), however. Hence, the concept also lends itself to acknowledge inter-individual differences: adolescents who differ in their perceptions of these affordances, then, may also differ in their uses of the mobile phone, which, in turn, may affect their relationships with friends. The current study explores the theoretical value of the affordances-concept by examining (1) how teens’ perceptions of three affordances of mobile communication technology (having a private communication channel, anytime anyplace availability, and controllability over one’s messages) predict the use of text messaging for micro-coordination (instrumental), for passing the time (expressive, low socio-emotional content) and for self-disclosing intimate information (expressive, high socio-emotional content), and (2) how these behaviors, in turn, affect two characteristics of relationship quality, namely friend companionship and friend support.
We investigated our hypotheses by conducting a quantitative survey among 1943 adolescents (50.6% males, Mage = 15.28, SD = 1.89). Results generally support our hypotheses. First, adolescents who value having a private communication channel more strongly, use text messaging more for both passing time and intimate self-disclosure, confirming H1a and H1b. Second, the ability for anytime/anyplace communication was positively related to both using texting for passing time and micro-coordination (H2a and H2b). Third, controllability was positively related to intimate self-disclosure (H3) but also to using text messaging for micro-coordination. Finally, results confirmed that micro-coordination was mostly related to face-to-face companionship (H4), while intimate self-disclosure was most strongly related to receiving social support. Finally, unexpectedly, we found that using text messaging to pass time was also positively related to face-to-face companionship.
Our results indicate that the mobile phone affordances perceived by teens significantly predict to what ends they use the mobile phone, and that these uses, in turn, predict companionship and emotional support. A parallel can be drawn with findings from previous research on teen internet use and their social relationships (e.g., the role of perceived CMC attributes in the internet-enhanced self-disclosure hypothesis). Our study is particularly relevant for future research on mobile communication research, as the findings demonstrate the theoretical value of the perceived affordances-concept as a (cognitive) psychological antecedent of mobile phone use. The concept needs to be examined further by exploring how particular inter- and intra-personal characteristics may affect differences in perceived affordances.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Leuven School for Mass Communication Research
# (joint) last author

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