Texting Linked to Sex and DrugsBy
If you’ve ever thought about your hyper-texting teen and said to yourself,
“Better she spend her time texting than (doing blank)”
it’s probably time to rethink your approach. Research shows that the top teen texters are 200 percent more likely to have tried alcohol, 90 percent more likely to have had four or more sexual partners and 41 percent more likely to have used illegal drugs.
More bad news for those who overuse online social networks. The top ranked teen networkers were found to be 84 percent more likely to have used illicit drugs, 69 percent more likely to have had sex, 60 percent more likely to have four or more sexual partners and 69 percent more likely to be a binge drinker.
“This study says more about the kids who overuse social media, than it does about the media itself. There’s an important message for parents here” – Author’s Note
So just what level of use constitutes overuse? Previous studies have found that the average teen sends and receives about 50 texts per day. The danger threshold of this study was drawn at more than twice that. So if your teen is exchanging 120 texts per day, you’ve got a hyper-texter on your hands. If they spend more than three hours per day engaging in online social networks, they are also deemed to be in the danger zone. These are great benchmarks for parents, but the implications may not be so simple.
Parents would be very wise to monitor, and limit, their teen’s text count and social network time. If you notice that your teen is an overuser, though, the problem isn’t likely to be solved by limiting the activity. While it’s true that kids who overindulge in this type of behavior are exposed to greater rates of peer pressure and temptation, the real concern lies within the teen themselves.
Dr. Scott Frank, lead researcher from Case Western University Reserve School of Medicine, says that the overuse of these networks by teens is a very similar behavior to that seen with their overindulgence in drug use and premature sex. Those who do so, seem to be particularly vulnerable to social anxiety and peer pressure. The overuse of social networking is more of a symptom, than a causal factor.
Dr. Frank thinks it may say something about the parents too. “If parents are monitoring their kids’ texting and social networking, they’re probably monitoring other activities as well,” said Frank. He warns that those who rack up the higher use rates, may have overly permissive parents; a circumstance which is also likely to breed excessive risk taking amongst teens.
The study sampled over 4,000 teens in the Midwestern United States. It’s just one in a series of research findings that have highlighted the negative side of texting and social networking. While no one should paint these activities with a broad brush, the fact is that no previous generation of parents or kids have ever dealt with these issues before. What we’re learning now, will be common knowledge in the future. The best advice for parents is to set clear guidelines for their children. Stay involved and help them navigate the new environments. If overuse becomes an issue, it may be time to look at other areas of the child’s life too. An ounce of prevention is worth a kilo of cure.
For more tips on detecting and preventing drug use amongst teens, please the MpoweredParent Teen Drug Use page.
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