Parents are not LOL about this: New data released this week reveals that the dangers of excessive texting among teens are not limited to the road. Hyper-texting and hyper-networking are now linked to risky health behaviors, including sex, drinking and smoking.

texting and cell phoneScott Frank, lead researcher on the study and director of the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine Master of Public Health program, presented the findings at the American Public Health Association’s 138th Annual Meeting and Exposition in Denver. Researchers surveyed a cross section of high school students from an urban Midwestern County and assessed whether use of communication technology could be associated with poor health behaviors, including smoking, drinking and sexual activity.

According to the research, hyper-texting, defined as texting more than 120 messages per school day, was reported by 19.8 percent of teens surveyed, many of whom were female, from lower socioeconomic status, minority and had no father in the home. Drawing from the data, teens who are hyper-texters are 40 percent more likely to have tried cigarettes, two times more likely to have tried alcohol, 43 percent more likely to be binge drinkers, 41 percent more likely to have used illicit drugs, 55 percent more likely to have been in a physical fight, nearly three-and-a-half times more likely to have had sex and 90 percent more likely to report four or more sexual partners.

“The startling results of this study suggest that when left unchecked texting and other widely popular methods of staying connected can have dangerous health effects on teenagers,” said Frank. “This should be a wake-up call for parents to not only help their children stay safe by not texting and driving, but by discouraging excessive use of the cell phone or social websites in general.”

Additionally, hyper-networking, defined as spending more than three hours per school day on social networking websites, was reported by 11.5 percent of students and associated with higher odds ratios for stress, depression, suicide, substance use, fighting, poor sleep, poor academics, television watching and parental permissiveness. Teens who are hyper-networkers are 62 percent more likely to have tried cigarettes, 79 percent more likely to have tried alcohol, 69 percent more likely to be binge drinkers, 84 percent more likely to have used illicit drugs, 94 percent more likely to have been in a physical fight, 69 percent more likely to have had sex and 60 percent more likely to report four or more sexual partners.