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Teens’ Excessive Texting Linked to Substance Abuse, Sex

New research from the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine Master of Public Health program has found that excessive texting among teens is linked to risky health behaviors, including drinking, drug use, and sexual activity. Scott Frank, MD, MS, lead author of the study and director of the Master of Public Health program at Case Western, presented the study’s findings at a meeting of the American Public Health Association in Denver, Colorado.

The researchers found that hyper-texting, or sending more than 120 text messages per day, was reported by 19.8 percent of the teens who participated in the survey. Many of those who were classified as hyper-texters were female, minorities, raised by single mothers, and from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Hyper-texters were 40 percent more likely to smoke cigarettes, two times more likely to drink alcohol, 43 percent more likely to binge drink, 41 percent more likely to use illicit drugs, 55 percent more likely to have been in a physical fight, three and a half times more likely to have had sex, and 90 percent more likely to report having four or more sexual partners.

The researchers also looked at the prevalence of hyper-networking, or spending three or more hours per school day on social networking websites such as Facebook. They found that 11.5 percent of students reported hyper-networking, and they had higher instances of stress, depression, suicide, substance abuse, fighting, poor sleep, poor academic performance, watching television, and having permissive parents.

The study found that hyper-networkers were 62 percent more likely to smoke cigarettes, 79 percent more likely to drink alcohol, 69 percent more likely to binge drink, 84 percent more likely to use illicit drugs, 94 percent more likely to be in a physical fight, 69 percent more likely to have had sex, and 60 percent more likely to have four or more sexual partners.

Frank said that these results should be a wake-up call to parents to start monitoring their teens’ activities more closely and to set limits on the number of texts that they can send per day and the amount of time they can spend on social networking sites. Parents should also educate their teenagers on the dangers of texting while driving.

Source: Science Daily, Hyper-Texting and Hyper-Networking Linked to Health Risks for Teens, November 9, 2010

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