Texting and Internet Networking May Pose as Health Risks

A recent study by the Case Western Reserve School o f Medicine has found links between hypertexting and hypernetworking to poor health behaviors.

According to Scott Frank, lead researcher on the study, parents should keep an eye on their children’s texting and social networking behaviors. “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,”  he said. “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 websites in general,” he added.

He also told CNN that “high-tech peer pressure causes teenagers to spend an excessive amount of time online and consequently add up to the cycle.

In his study, hypertexting was defined as sending more than 120 messages per school day while hypernetworking meant spending more than three hours per school day on social network sites like Facebook. The study found that nearly 20 percent of the Midwestern teens engaged in hypertexting.

When the researchers correlated hypertexting with poor health behavior, the results showed that teens who are hypertexters are generally:

— two times more likely to have tried alcohol

— nearly 3.5 times more likely to have had sex

— 40 percent more likely to have tried cigarettes

— 41 percent more likely to have used illicit drugs

— 43 percent more likely to be binge drinkers

— 55 percent more likely to have been in a physical fight

— 90 percent more likely to report four or more sexual partners

On the other hand, teens who are hypernetworking were found to be:

— 60 percent more likely to report four or more sexual partners

— 62 percent more likely to have tried cigarettes

— 69 percent more likely to be binge drinkers

— 69 percent more likely to have had sex

— 79 percent more likely to have tried alcohol

— 84 percent more likely to have used illicit drugs

— 94 percent more likely to have been in a physical fight

The striking results drew alarm from experts since it gives rise to a new health risk category for the age group. Furthermore, the study found that children of parents with less education and involvement (especially the father) are more likely to be involved in hypernetworking and hypertexting.

Frank, however, was quick to caution against making hasty conclusion. He said that the study does not demonstrate cause and effect relationship. “We are not saying texting causes these behaviors,” he said. “We can recognize that these kinds of connections … may be facilitating or enabling these kinds of behaviors, but we certainly can’t think of (the online connections) as causing them.”

Hypernetworking and hypertexting has been under fire even before. It is usually associated with poor action choices leading to accidents.

Last January, a new set of guidelines for states to create laws on text messaging was proposed by federal safety regulators. Under the proposed guidelines, a minimum fine of $75 is imposed on  drivers caught texting while behind the wheel. Furthermore, an unspecified action against their driving privileges will be implemented.


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