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Teens Who Text Too Much: More Likely to Smoke, Drink, Have Sex

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A study conducted by researchers at Case Western Reserve University found that teens who engage in excessive texting or social networking on school days are more likely to engage in risky behaviors than their peers, HealthDay reported Nov. 9.

Researchers surveyed 4,257 students in 20 high schools in Cleveland, Ohio. They found that 19.8 percent of students engaged in “hyper-texting” (sending 120 or more texts per school day) and 11.5 percent were “hyper-networkers” (spending three or more hours on social networks per school day). 

Although the groups differed, both sets of teens were far more likely than their peers to have smoked, to binge-drink, to use illegal drugs, to have been in a fistfight, or to have had sex — and to have had sex with four or more people. 

For example, hyper-texters were twice as likely as other teens to have tried alcohol and 43 percent more likely to binge-drink; 3-1/2 times more likely to have had sex than other teens; and 90 percent more likely to have had four or more partners.

Hyper-networkers were 69 percent more likely than other teens to have had sex and 60 percent more likely to have had four or more partners; they were also 84 percent more likely than other teens to have tried illegal drugs and 94 percent more likely to have been in a fistfight.

Researchers stressed that texting and social networking did not cause teens to engage in risky behavior, but that excessive use of texting and social networking could be “a red flag for parents,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “If parents are monitoring their kids' texting and social networking, they're probably monitoring other activities as well,” said Dr. Scott Frank of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, who led the study.

The majority of students identified as hyper-texters or hyper-networkers were female, minorities, and came from low-income, single-parent homes. They were also more likely to be overweight, have eating disorders, rate their health lower than other students, and spend more school days home sick. Students who did not do any texting or social networking had “better health outcomes,” according to the study abstract. 

The study results were reported at the American Public Health Association on Nov. 9, 2010.

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