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Hyper-Texting Teens at Risk?

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Various recent studies, including a new one by Case
Western Reserve School of Medicine
, claim teens who frequently use text messaging, defined as those sending 120 or more messages a day, are more likely to be involved in risky behaviors. Among the findings, according to this study, teens that “text” compulsively are:

• twice as likely have tried alcohol
• 43% more likely to binge drink
• 40% more likely to smoke cigarettes
• 41% more likely to try illegal drugs
• Three and a half times more likely to have sex
• 90% more likely to have sex with multiple partners
• 55% more likely to be violent

Hyper-texting and hyper-networking, (defined as spending more than three hours a day on Facebook and other social networking sites, etc.) are blamed for increased stress, depression, substance abuse, poor sleep habits, premature sex and poor grades among other things. The typical profile of a heavy “texter“ and social networker is more likely female or in a minority, with parents of lower levels of education and/or from single-mother households—statistics that traditionally point to factors already contributing to a teen’s likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors.

Though obviously technology is not the cause for behaviors that existed in society before mobile phones and social networking sites, studies are making the connection and assumptions about what the link might mean. But it seems there is a simpler reason behind the hyper-texting connection: hyper-texters are attention cravers. Having the ability to constantly connect with peers and receive feedback and affirmation is addictive.

Taking away the computer or cell phone from teens who crave the instant connection doesn’t address the root cause. It’s a strange paradox that while technology seems to create distance in social relationships with less face-to-face interaction, it does create the illusion of intimacy and an instant connection via texting, chat, or email. Teens should have limits to how much they text and use the computer and they must receive the attention and caring support from friends and family they need, but hyper-texting as revealed in the studies is a symptom and certainly not a cause of chronic problems in adolescence.

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About Birgit Nazarian