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OMG! Excessive Texting Tied to Risky Teen Behaviors

TUESDAY, Nov. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Excessive texting and social networking may increase teens' risk for dangerous health behaviors, including smoking, drinking and sexual activity, a new study suggests.

Researchers looked at hyper-texting (sending more than 120 messages per school day) and hyper-networking (spending more than three hours a school day on social networking sites) among high school students in an urban county in the U.S. Midwest.

Many of the 19.8 percent of teens who reported hyper-texting were female, minority, from lower socioeconomic status and had no father at home, according to the researchers at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland.

Hyper-texters were: 40 percent more likely to have tried smoking; two times more likely to have tried alcohol; 43 percent more likely to binge-drink; 41 percent more likely to have used illicit drugs; 55 percent more likely to have been in a physical fight; nearly 3.5 times more likely to have had sex; and 90 percent more likely to have had four or more sexual partners.

The 11.5 percent of students who were hyper-networkers were: 62 percent more likely to have smoked 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 have had four or more sexual partners.

Hyper-networking was also associated with increased likelihood of stress, depression, suicide, poor sleep, poor academics, television watching and parental permissiveness.

The study was to be presented Tuesday at the American Public Health Association annual meeting in Denver.

"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," lead researcher Dr. Scott Frank, director of the School of Medicine's Master of Public Health Program, said in a university news release.

"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 web sites in general," he added.

More information

The Nemours Foundation outlines the dangers of texting on the move.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, news release, Nov. 9, 2010

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