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But this generation is navigating adolescence with a new digital tool kit — Facebook, Twitter — that has the unintended side effect of subtracting important social cues, according to Steiner-Adair. One boy said, "I don't get it — why would a woman get turned on by being choked?
" A girl asked her if it was normal to have anal sex.
"That's the stuff that helps people grow up," he added.
The key to developing solid relationships lies partly in early education, said Steiner-Adair.
They describe it as "goofing around, flirting," said Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist and school consultant who interviewed 1,000 students nationwide for her new book, "The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age." How the hookup culture affects young people has long been debated and lamented, in books and blogs, among parents and teachers.
A general consensus is that it harms girls, although some have argued that it empowers them.
Then she started to cry, questioning whether it was worth the effort.
Teenagers have never been known for their social grace. Students across the country asked Steiner-Adair about graphic images they had seen.
"You can manage an entire relationship with text messages," he said, but that keeps some of the "messy relationship stuff" at bay.The boys don't know it, he said, because the girls don't want to tell them.For boys and girls alike, crucial lessons in how to relate to each other are getting lost in the blizzard of tweets and texts, experts say.She said boys often expressed a desire for a deeper connection with girls, but felt confused about how to make it happen.They are "yearning for intimacy that goes beyond biology," she said.
"We are neglecting the emotional lives of boys." In interviews and focus groups, Steiner-Adair talked with boys and girls ages 4 to 18 at suburban public and private schools, with consent from parents and schools, about their relationships and influences.