Teens have access to ways to connect with friends that put them in nearly constant contact with their peers. While past generations have been limited to face-to-face social interactions, telephone calls, and more recently, e-mail exchanges and instant messaging, teens now have almost no break in conversation.
Through Facebook, text messaging and, in a rare instance, cell phone conversations, teens are more plugged in with peers than ever. This may indicate that they are more under the influence of peers than ever, too.
What has parents shaking their heads in frustration and confusion could contain signs of more than a generation gap in communication. There may be indicators that too much texting and social networking is a mental health hazard.
Study On High Schoolers Excessively Texting, Social Networking
A recent study examined the possibility of a connection between constant social interaction through technology and an increased risk for mental health problems. The researchers at Case Western Reserve University found that when high school students spend excessive time connecting with friends via texting or social networking sites, they are more likely to experience symptoms of a wide array of mental health diagnoses.
The study included 4,000 high school students from 20 urban high schools in Ohio. About 20 percent of students interviewed reported sending at least 120 text messages on any particular day. Another 10 percent indicated that at least three hours of their day was spent on a social networking site.
Four percent of the students surveyed both texted 120 times per day in addition to spending three hours per day on a social networking site.
Connection Between Relentless Social Networking/Text Interactions And Negative Behaviors/Peer Pressure
The students using social networking or texting at these levels may be at an increased risk for substance abuse, depression, risky sexual behaviors and eating disorders. Among the 4 percent who used both texting and social networking to excess, there was twice the risk for binge drinking, fighting, absenteeism and other negative behaviors, when compared to those who did not participate in texting and social networking activities.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Frank Scott, explained that the findings may be a logical connection. If kids are working hard to fit in by relentlessly interacting on social networking sites and on phones, they may be drawn to additional behaviors that allow them to fit in, such as substance use.
Lack Of Phone-Monitoring From Parents
The authors of the study are careful to note that the findings do not indicate a causal relationship. While there could be a cause-and-effect relationship, the association could also be connected to a third factor. Teens who spend excessive time texting and teens who engage in binge drinking may both be suffering from a lack of monitoring by their parents.
The findings of the study indicate that students who are spending excessive time in technology-related social interactions should be encouraged to find other means of connecting with friends. Parents can also set boundaries to keep cell phone and Internet usage within reason, such as having a technology curfew.
Sedentary Lifestyle Affecting Kids’ Social Networking/Texting Use
Another possibility is that those who use social networking and texting at this level may also be lodged in a sedentary lifestyle, and in a lifestyle that doesn’t allow for good nutrition. These factors could also prove to be interacting with both mental health and technology use.
Simple But True – Phone Moderation Is Key
The only information provided, so far, about mental health and teens that use texting and social networking is the presence of an association. However, as the research is compiled, there may soon be evidence of what has proven true with many other vices of teens, such as television and sugar: moderation is the key.
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