Nov. 9, 2010 -- Teens who are excessive users of texting and social networking sites are much more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors like smoking and binge drinking than their peers who are not excessive users, a new study says.
Researchers at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine surveyed 4,257 high school students from an urban county in the Midwest, addressing their use of communication technology and various health topics.
Too Much Texting Linked to Unhealthy Behaviors
Teens who are considered “hyper-texters” -- defined as texting 120 or more messages in a school day, are:
- 40% more likely to have tried cigarettes than youths who spend less time texting
- 43% more likely to be binge drinkers
- 41% more likely to have used illicit drugs
- 55% more likely to have been in a physical fight
- Nearly 3.5 times more likely to have had sex
- 90% more likely to report having had 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,” Scott Frank, MD, of Case Western Reserve, says in a news release. “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 web sites in general.”
Frank and colleagues also report that youths who engage in hyper-networking, which they defined as spending three hours or more a day on social networking web sites, is also risky.
Of teens surveyed, 11.5% said they spend more than three hours a day on social networking sites.
The researchers say these teens are:
- 62% more likely to have tried cigarettes
- 79% more likely to have tried alcohol
- 69% more likely to be binge drinkers
- 84% more likely to have used illicit drugs
- 94% more likely to have been in a physical fight
- 69% more likely to have had sex
- 60% more likely to report having had four or more sexual partners
Frank presented the study in Denver at the 138th annual meeting and exposition of the American Public Health Association.
The researchers also say that too much texting time and excessive hours on social networks also are linked to obesity, eating disorders, school absenteeism due to illness, lack of adequate sleep, and feelings of being unsafe at school. These teens also are more likely to be stressed and to think about suicide.
This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.