Teens who are constantly texting are much more likely to have experimented with sex, alcohol and drugs than those who don’t send as many messages, a US study shows. And all this “risky behaviour” is linked with — you guessed it — slack parents.

Researchers analysed paper surveys filled in by more than 4200 students at public high schools in Cleveland last year and found that one in five were hyper-texters, sending messages 120 times a day or more.

The study found those who text at least 120 times a day are nearly three-and-a-half times more likely to have had sex than their peers who don’t text that much. Hyper-texters were also more likely to have been in a physical fight, binge drink, use illegal drugs or take medication without a prescription.

About one in nine were hyper-networkers, spending three or more hours a day on Facebook and other social networking sites. They were not as likely to have had sex, but more likely to have been involved in other risky behaviours like drinking or fighting. About one in 25 students fell into both categories.

The study concludes that a significant number of teens are very susceptible to peer pressure and also have permissive or absent parents, said Dr. Scott Frank, the study’s lead author.

“If parents are monitoring their kids’ texting and social networking, they’re probably monitoring other activities as well,” said Frank, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

The AP report further notes:

Hyper-texting and hyper-networking were more common among girls, minorities, kids whose parents have less education and students from a single-mother household, the study found.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that only 14 per cent of kids said their parents set rules limiting texting.

While the bulk of texts are probably harmless chatter, the time wasted/cribbed from class and homework time or family time — and sleep — is serious. And girls looking for something to chatter about are almost certain to venture into risky subjects — hence the phenomenon of “sexting”.

It is not at all surprising that such excesses are linked with the absence of a parent or lack of parental involvement with a child.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet