Have you ever wondered what teens do all day on their smartphones? We haven't either. But a psychology professor has amassed an enormous database of text messages, photos and IMs sent by dozens of Texas teens over four years. Contained in its depths is the Secret of the American Teen.
Forbes' Kashmir Hill reports on University of Texas-Dallas psychology professor Marion Underwood's "Blackberry Project." Somehow, Underwood convinced a bunch of teenagers to agree to carry around wire-tapped Blackberries, which have captured every IM, text message, and photo on the phones. For four years they've loaded them with precious teenage thoughts, providing Underwood and her colleagues with "a rich database that now contains millions of funny, explicit, sexual, and inane messages for academic study," according to Hill. (Underwood is beginning to get Facebook messages now, too.)
Since teenagers only communicate via electronic messages, this database should contain the most intimate thoughts of a generation. Advertising agencies are probably hiring Ukrainian hackers to steal it right now. But, as Hill notes, the studies using the database haven't been exactly groundbreaking—the most prominent being that girls and boys text the same amount.
Here are some important teenage questions for researchers to look into using their database: