November 9, 2010

Frequently Texting Teens More Likely To Drink, Have Sex

The number of messages a teenager sends and the amount of time he or she spends on social networks could indicate how likely he or she is to drink, smoke, have sex, or try drugs, according to a new Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine study.

Speaking during the American Public Health Association's (APHA) 138th Annual Meeting & Exposition in Denver on Tuesday, lead author Dr. Scott Frank, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the university revealed that teenagers who sent at least 120 messages per day were 40 percent more likely to have tried cigarettes, twice as likely to have tried alcohol, 41 percent more likely to have used illegal drugs, and more than three-times as likely to have had sex.

Furthermore, these "hyper-texters" were 43 percent more likely to become binge drinkers and 90 percent more likely to report having four or more sexual partners, the APHA said in a press release dated November 2.

The study polled 4,200 high school students at 20 different schools in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and discovered that 19.8 percent of them fit the "hyper-texter" qualifications, which involved sending over 120 text messages per day during school days.

Similarly, 11.5 percent of them were said be "hyper-networkers," meaning that they spend at least three hours per school day on social networking sites. According to the APHA press release, such heavy social network activity has been "associated with higher odds ratios for stress, depression, suicide, substance use, fighting, poor sleep, poor academics, television watching and parental permissiveness."

"Teens who are hyper-networkers 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 APHA said.

Both behaviors were more common among females, the study discovered. Furthermore, minorities and the children of single-parent families were also more likely to hyper-text or hyper-network.

"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," Frank said in a statement. "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."


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