Incessive Texting Linked to Risky Behaviors in Teens
A landmark study on social networking has found an association between hypertexting and risky behaviors, such as sexual intercourse and drinking, among teenagers.
For the study, lead author Dr. Scott Frank, associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, defined hypertexting as texting 120 times a day or more. According to the Associated Press, Frank calls the link “startling,” and claims that due diligence is in order on the part of parents to reign in excessive texting and networking.
Specifically for the study, 4,200 students from 20 public schools around Cleveland were questioned about their social networking habits. At the end of the day, Dr. Frank and his team discovered that 1 in five of the teenagers assessed were hyper-texters, while 1 in 9 were considered hyper-networkers (defined as those who not only text, but spend 3 hours a day or more on social networking sites such as Facebook).
Study results demonstrated that teens who hypertext are three-and-a-half times more likely to have sex than those who text less often; hyper-texting teens were also more likely to binge drink, take legal drugs without a proper prescription, or engage in illegal drug activity.
Hyper-networkers were not as likely to have had sex as hypertexters, but they were more likely to engage in underage drinking and other similar risky behaviors.
To explain the link, Dr. Frank concludes that those who do the most texting are more susceptible to peer pressure and have more permissive parents or parents who are altogether absent.
Texting has also been linked to another form of risky behavior – sexting. According to an NPR report, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned pregnancy conducted a study in 2009 regarding the prevalence of sexting among teenagers around the country.
The results of their research were as startling as that of Dr. Frank’s. Fully 20% of teens surveyed said they had texted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves. Surprisingly, girls reportedly did this more than boys – 22% as opposed to 18%.
The complexity of the issue is the fact that teenagers lack the impulse control that adults typically have. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, the front cortex, the area of the brain that keeps impulsivity in check, is not fully developed until the age of 25.
The negative results of giving teenagers something as incredibly powerful as the ability to text and engage in social networking have been demonstrated not only in cases of sexting, but in cyberbullying as well.
In a previous article in Food Consumer, we reported that “according to the Cyberbullying Research Center, a nonprofit organization devoted to researching electronic harassment and it’s consequences, the cyberbullying phenomenon is still being defined and expanded as other forms of electronic abuse, such as sexting, electronic dating violence, and impersonation continue to ‘grace’ the digital stage.”
In order to mitigate some of the negative aspects of the technological maelstrom teenagers are exposed to, the Center recommends that parents do the following:
*Be a good netizen (internet citizen)
*Understand what should and should not be posted online.
*Create online time limits
*Keep computers in a common area
*Stay up to date.
*Beware of the people kids meet online
*Accompany kids when they want to meet “virtual” friends
*Encourage kids to report inappropriate sites and emails
*If there’s a problem, do not overreact
Increasingly, research is showing that parents need to be aware of the impact that modern technology has on the average teenager.