Hyper-Texting Teens More Likely to Engage in Sex and Substance Abuse

Posted on November 10th, 2010
Posted in Teens

Does your teen always seem to be furiously typing on his or her cell phone? Do you often wonder how your child’s thumbs aren’t sore from all that texting? Are you always asking your teen to just put the phone down for five minutes? If your child is constantly texting, there may be more to worry about than sore thumbs and poor manners.

A new study by researchers at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has found that teens who text 120 times a day or more are more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as sexual activity and substance abuse, than those who don’t text as much.

The researchers note that this doesn’t mean that “hyper-texting” leads to sex and substance abuse, but that there seems to be an apparent link between excessive messaging and risky behavior. This suggests that many teens are susceptible to peer pressure, and that many also have parents who are either absent or overly permissive.

Lead author Dr. Scott Frank, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, said that parents who monitor their kids’ texting and social networking, they are most likely also monitoring their other activities.

The researchers surveyed more than 4,200 students at 20 public high schools in the Cleveland area last year, and found that about one in five students were hyper-texters, and about one in nine were hyper-networkers (spending three or more hours a day on Facebook and other social networking sites). About one in 25 fell into both categories.

The study found that both activities were more common among females, minorities, kids whose parents are less educated, and kids who were raised by single mothers. Hyper-texters were about three and a half times more likely to have had sex than those who don’t text that much, and were also more likely to have been in a physical fight, binge drink, use illicit drugs, and abuse prescription drugs.

Hyper-networkers were not as likely to have had sex as hyper-texters, but were more likely to drink alcohol or get into fights.

The study is one of the first to examine texting and social networking and their associations with sex and other risky behaviors. A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that among children ages 8 to 18, about half send text messages, averaging about 118 per day. Only 14 percent of children said their parents set rules about the number of texts they can send.

A Pew Research Center study found that about one-third of 16- and 17-year-olds text while driving, and an Associated Press-MTV survey found that about one-quarter of teenagers have “sexted,” or send sexually explicit texts, photos, or videos.

Source: Associated Press, Mike Stobbe, Sex, drugs more common in hyper-texting teens, November 9, 2010

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