The Truth about Teenagers and Texting

Teens and Texting

The question for parents used to be, “do you know where your children are?”  Now, that question may be changing to “do you know where your child’s cell phone is?”  Research on teens and texting seems to support growing concerns amongst members of the medical and mental health community that there may be a price to all this texting that cannot be mitigated with any unlimited plan.

The Numbers

A study published in 2010 by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Master of Public Health program found that heavy usage of texting and other social connection technology is associated with higher rates of unhealthy behaviors.   They determined that teens and adolescents who sent more than 120 texts per school day fell into a category called hyper-texters.

This group was:

  • 40% more likely to have tried cigarettes
  • 41% more likely to have used illicit drugs
  • 55% more likely to have been in a physical altercation
  • 2x as likely to have tried alc
  • 3.5x as likely to be sexually active

When the study data was collected, only about 20% of teens fell into this hyper-texting group.  However, according to a poll taken at the end of 2010 by The Nielsen Company, the average teen now sends almost 3,400 texts per month which equates to about 113 texts per day.  This means that most teens are either already hyper-texters or are nearly there.


The Concerns

While the statistics are enough to raise the concerns of every parent, there are also concerns about the long term effects these technologies will have on the health and development of teens.   The constant interruption caused by receiving a hundred text messages a day makes it difficult to study, focus, and retain important information.   Some doctors are concerned that teens will develop repetitive motion injuries that impact the development of their arms, hands, and thumbs and even lead to permanent damage. There are also concerns amongst those who see to the mental health of our teens that some aspects of being constantly connected to peers and parents may negatively impact teen’s social and emotional development as well.

What Can Parents Do

The most important thing for parents to do is remain involved.  This means monitoring social networking use and experience, monitoring text message logs, and setting guidelines about texting in school or after bedtime.  Keep communication lines open and make sure you listen significantly more than you talk.  Set a standard for responsible technology use in your house and then provide a good example for your teens to follow.


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