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“Hyper-texting” and Teen Health

Posted on November 11, 2010

Recent research has found a new link between technology use and teen health. Dr. Scott Frank, Schubert Center Faculty Associate and director of the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine Master of Public Health Program, is the lead researcher on the project, which surveyed high school students on their cell phone and computer use habits and their health risk behaviors, including smoking, drinking and sexual activity. Dr. Frank and colleagues found that that “hyper-texting,” defined as texting more than 120 messages per school day, was associated with a number of health risk behaviors. Specifically, “hyper-texting” teens are:

  • 41 percent more likely to have used illicit drugs,
  • 2 times more likely to have tried alcohol,
  • 43 percent more likely to be binge drinkers,
  • 40 percent more likely to have tried cigarettes,
  • 55 percent more likely to have been in a physical fight,
  • nearly 3.5 times more likely to have had sex,
  • 90 percent more likely to report four or more sexual partners.

An even stronger link to these risk behaviors were seen in teens who practiced “hyper-networking,” defined as spending more than three hours per school day on social networking websites. Hyper-networking was also found to be associated with poorer health outcomes for teens, including a higher odds ratios for stress, depression, suicide, and poor sleep.

Overall, 19.8 percent of teens in the sample were identified as “hyper-texters,” and 11.5 percent were “hyper-networkers.” Teens identified as hyper-texters and hyper-networkers were more likely to be female, minority, from lower socioeconomic status, and to have no father in the home. While Dr. Frank and colleagues emphasize that their results cannot be used to prove that excessive cell phone and computer causes these risky behaviors, the strength of the associations found suggest that hyper-texting and hyper-networking could be useful indicators of a teen’s risk for negative health outcomes.

Read the recent article featuring Dr. Frank’s research in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.


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