On a typical day, Stephanie, a New Jersey teen, spends a large part of her time in class sending text messages to her friends on her cell phone, and once she gets home she uses her phone to call her friends. That's when she's not chatting with them online. She said she will sometimes chat until 1 a.m.
"It's just so addicting," Stephanie said. "I don't know why it's so addicting, but it just is. You just have to have that comfort to talk to people constantly while you're on the computer playing games and stuff."
Like Stephanie, more and more teens are leading high-tech lives connected through instant messaging, cell phones and the Internet for hours at a time. A new study by Seventeen magazine and Johns Hopkins University suggests all this technology might not be a good thing.
Almost a third of respondents said life is moving too fast to keep up. Seventeen has dubbed today's teens "Generation Speed."
"They [today's teens] just think things are so hectic that it's just harder," said Altoosa Rubenstein, editor in chief of Seventeen. "What they don't realize is that all the technology is actually creating work for them and making things that much harder to keep up."
The survey included 180 Chicago junior and senior high school students and an online version completed by 641 teens in 11 states. Sixty-two percent said they could not live comfortably without their cell phone, IM or e-mail for more than a few days, and 31 percent said life is moving too fast.
"I think it would be very difficult to go without IM or my cell phone for a month," said Jen, 16, from Fairfax, Va. "I'm always signed on, I always have an awake message up and that way people can let me know if something major is happening in my life. I even have an awake message on when I'm asleep or when I'm away at school."
Jen is not alone. The survey found 40 percent of responding teenagers spend a week or longer online without ever logging off, and 90 percent are adapting to multi-tasking.
"I do get scared of what's going to happen to me when I get to college because there's not going to be anyone there telling me 'OK, it's time to get off now,' " said Corrina, 16, of California.
The survey showed 81 percent of teens use technology to contact their parents rather than trying to figure out answers to questions on their own.
"Cell phones are actually slowing down the maturation process," Rubenstein said. "Any situation a child is in now, she calls her parents. Any decision she has to make, she calls mom or dad because the phones make it so easy. So kids aren't learning to make decisions on their own."
Rubenstein offered the following advice for parents concerned about their teenagers spending too much time on cell phones and in cyberspace:
• No cell phones at school. School is a time to learn, not socialize. Keep cell phones at home if your child really doesn't need to keep it with her.
• Reset e-mail refreshes. You can set your child's e-mail account so that it only gets new e-mails once every 30 minutes or once every hour. This way your child won't be running to the computer every five minutes to see if she has a new e-mail.
• Take a screen vacation. Set a limit on time spent watching television or working on the computer to create family time.