Research, in adults, has shown that having a good social network is important to staying healthy. However, the opposite may be true for teenagers who are seemingly constantly texting their friends and spending hours a day on social networking sites such as Facebook.
A new study done at Case Western Reserve medical school has concluded that teenagers who text too much, and who spend a lot of time on social networks, are more likely to engage in risky health habits such as smoking, drinking, drug use, getting into fights and sexual activity. The study’s authors conclude that parents should take steps to limit how much time teenagers spend texting and using online social network sites.
The study defined the term “hypertexting” as sending over 120 text messages a day, and spending too much time networking on the computer, or “hypernetworking”, as spending more than 3 hours per day on social network sites. Interestingly, the study found that about 20% of teenagers are hypertexters, and about half as many are hypernetworkers.
However, does the study prove that excessive number of texts sent, and excessive amount of time spent on social network sites, leads to poor choices among teenagers?
The researcher in charge of the study admits that the association between “hypertexting” and “hypernetworking” does not prove cause and effect. For example, the results could simply mean that teenagers who hypertext and hypernetwork are more extroverted and prone to try things that are risky. However, other factors such as peer pressure may play a role.
For the impulsive teenager who has dozens, perhaps hundreds of friends on social networking sites, undoubtedly some of them may be involved in risky activities such as drug and alcohol use themselves. Adults are likely more able to discriminate between the bad apples online, however, teenagers who are plugged into the online social scene may erroneously conclude that such behavior is normal.