At-Home Safety: Texting Poses New Health Risks to Teens

Nov. 9, 2010
According to new research, the dangers of excessive texting among teens are not limited to the road. The data revealed that “hyper-texting” and “hyper-networking” are now giving rise to a new health risk category for this age group.

Researchers, who presented the findings at the American Public Health Association’s 138th Annual Meeting and Exposition in Denver, surveyed a cross section of high school students from the Midwest and assessed whether use of communication technology could be associated with poor health behaviors, including smoking, drinking and sexual activity.

According to the research, hyper-texting, defined as texting more than 120 messages per day on school days, was reported by 19.8 percent of teens surveyed, many of whom were female, from lower socioeconomic status, minority and had no father in the home. Drawing from the data, hyper-texting teens are 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.

Additionally, hyper-networking, defined as spending more than 3 hours per school day on social networking Web sites, was reported by 11.5 percent of students and associated with higher odds ratios for stress, depression, suicide, substance use, fighting, poor sleep, poor academics, television watching and parental permissiveness. Hyper-networking teens are 62 percent more likely to have tried cigarettes, 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, 94 percent more likely to have been in a physical fight, 69 percent more likely to have had sex and 60 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, M.D., M.S., lead researcher on the study. “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.”

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