Teens who spend excessive amounts of time texting and networking are associated with greater risk for unhealthy behaviors or mental health problems, according to a Case Western Reserve School of Medicine study.
The research was conducted to determine if communication technologies could be associated with poor health behaviors, including drinking, smoking, and sexual activity. The study based its findings upon a sample of high school students from an urban Midwestern U.S. county.
According to the findings, nearly 20 percent of the participants were “hyper-texters.” The researchers defined “hyper-texting” as texting more than 120 messages per school day. Many of these participants were female, from lower socioeconomic status, a member of a minority group, and had no father in the home.
Specifically, these hyper-texting teens were found to be highly at risk for the following: they were 40 percent more likely to have tried cigarettes, two times more likely to have tried alcohol, 43 percent more likely to be binge drinkers, 41 percent more likely to have used illicit drugs, 55 percent more likely to have been in a physical fight, nearly three-and-a-half times more likely to have had sex and 90 percent more likely to report four or more sexual partners.
“The startling results of this study suggest that when left unchecked texting and other widely popular methods of staying connected can have dangerous health effects on teenagers,” said Scott Frank, MD, MS, and lead study researcher and director of the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine Master of Public Health program.
However, the study was not designed to determine causal relationships between hyper-texting and the other health behaviors studied.
“This should be a wake-up call for parents to not only help their children stay safe by not texting and driving, but by discouraging excessive use of the cell phone or social websites in general,” said Dr. Frank.
Furthermore, hyper-networking — spending more than three hours per school day on social networking sites — was reported by 11.5 percent of students. Hyper-networking was linked to higher odds ratios for poor sleep, stress, depression, substance use, fighting, poor academics, suicide, television watching and having permissive parents.
Hyper-networking teens are 62 percent more likely to have tried cigarettes, 69 percent more likely to have had sex, 60 percent more likely to report four or more sexual partners, 79 percent more likely to have tried alcohol, 69 percent more likely to be binge drinkers, 84 percent more likely to have used illicit drugs and 94 percent more likely to have been in a physical fight.