Sure, instant messaging is fast and efficient. For many teenagers, it's also a great way to avoid those OMG moments -- that's "omigod" -- of mortifying face-to-face confrontations.
More than four in 10 teens, or 43 percent, who instant message use it for things they wouldn't say in person, according to an Associated Press-AOL poll released Thursday. Twenty-two percent use IMs to ask people out on dates or accept them, and 13 percent use them to break up.
"If they freak out or something, you don't see it," said Cassy Hobert, 17, a high school senior from Frenchburg, Kentucky, and avid IMer who has used it to arrange dates. "And if I freak out, they don't have to see it."
Overall, nearly half of teens age 13 to 18 said they use instant messaging, those staccato, Internet-borne strings of real-time chatter often coupled with enough frenzied multitasking to fry the typical adult brain. Only about one in five adults said they use IMs -- though usually with less technological aplomb or hormone-driven social drama.
Among teenagers, about half of girls and more than a third of boys said they have used instant messages for things they wouldn't say in person.