Fargo, N.D. –– Parental advice once given to college-bound students that they should “Phone home” may not be followed by today’s busy students. Their fundamental communication question today: Do I call or text? New communication research at North Dakota State University, Fargo, investigates how college students decide which method to use when contacting their parents.
Results of the research indicate that the decision is often determined by time, schedule, and how students perceive the needs of those with whom they communicate.
Carrie Anne Platt, NDSU associate professor of communication, and doctoral students Renee Bourdeaux and Nancy DiTunnariello published their findings in Studies in Media and Communication by Emerald Publishing Group, Fall 2014 edition. The article is titled “Should I Text or Should I Call?: How College Students Navigate Mediated Connections with Family.”
“Students prefer to text. They found it easier and more convenient, particularly with their busy schedules,” explained Platt, who teaches courses in new media and technology. “They wouldn’t have time to sit down for a conversation, but they could shoot a text off to mom to check in. They could still feel a connection without having to devote the time a phone call would require.”
Results of the study showed some recurring themes. Most students said they are in almost daily contact with their parents and they manage that while juggling schedules that often include classes, internships and part-time jobs.
The students also worried about interrupting their parents, because they, too, have busy schedules.
According to Platt, efficiency is the determining factor when it comes to technology choice. Text messages are generally seen as the most efficient way to communicate, but if the topic of conversation was too complicated to be handled in a series of texts, students would make a short phone call to save time.
The researchers also found there were specific situations where the students felt a phone call is necessary.
“If something was of high emotional importance or they wanted support from mom or dad, that was the situation where they tended to call,” Platt said. “We had a lot of the students say there is something about hearing mom’s voice or getting to talk to dad that makes them feel better, and they didn’t get that same feeling texting back and forth.”
Platt said the research ultimately showed students want to stay connected with their parents.
“Many students wished they had the opportunity to talk more often with their parents. They felt they get a lot out of the interaction, but they didn’t have the time to do it,” Platt said. “When asked what advice they had for new students, they said incoming students should make time for phone calls, because they are important to maintain that connection.”
Study methodology included in-depth interviews with 22 students who were asked about their communication habits, frequency of communication, and which technologies they used, including calling, texting, emailing or using social media like Facebook or Instagram.
Platt says in future research it would be interesting to look at the parents’ perspective, communication with siblings, and how the type of communication affects the quality of student-parent relationships.
Platt earned her bachelor’s degree from Carroll College, Helena, Montana; her master’s degree from Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and her doctorate degree from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Her research focuses on the impact of emerging technologies on public and private life, rhetorical aspects of technology, and digital media in classroom practices and communication pedagogy.
NDSU, Fargo, North Dakota, USA, is notably listed among the top 108 U.S. public and private universities in the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education’s category of “Research Universities/Very High Research Activity.” As a student-focused, land grant, research institution, NDSU is listed in the top 100 research universities in the U.S. for R&D in agricultural sciences, chemistry, physical sciences, psychology, and social sciences, based on research expenditures reported to the National Science Foundation. NDSU is part of the 11-campus North Dakota unified system of higher education governed by the State Board of Higher Education, with its mission to enhance the quality of life for all those served by the NDUS, as well as the economic and social vitality of North Dakota. www.ndsu.edu/research