You’d think the students would self-censor their texts — since they know Underwood and her students are watching — but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
In an early look at the data, Underwood found that 7% of the texts contain profane language, and that 6.6% of messages contained sexual language, which is similar to what other researchers found when analyzing conversations in teenage chat rooms.
In fact, when a friend texted one participant about selling drugs, the participant wrote back, “Hey, be careful, the BlackBerry people are watching, don’t worry, they won’t tell anyone.”
Underwood has promised the participants that their privacy will be protected, but she has a researcher monitoring the stream of texts they send and receive each day to look for worrisome words like “rape,” “kill myself” or “older man.”
She has also intervened a handful of times when a student has run away from home.
So far, Underwood has been busy mostly with collecting the texting data rather than analyzing it.
And in fact, she says she has tried to limit the amount of time she spends reading the texts as they come in.
“I have someone who works for me who checks it everyday, but I don’t look at it too often because I’m immediately absorbed by it,” she said. “It is so rich and they say so much to each other, and they use such sophisticated language, it just sucks me in.”
Oof, I feel that last part. Sometimes I get sucked into reading the Tumblrs of teens who follow us.