Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Teens who text a lot live unsafe lives, a study claims

A study done by the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland shows that teens who text a lot (more than 120 messages per school day) and who spend a lot of time on social networks (more than three hours a school day), are more likely to lead unsafe lives. Unsafe, in the eyes of the researchers means they drink alcohol, use drugs and OMG, have sex! The calamity! High school students who drink, smoke weed and fool around with each other. This must be the end of the world.

At first my reaction was to laugh. I looked at the calendar, no it was not April fools day. So was this research real? What got my goat most was the blatant reversal the researchers allowed themselves. They warned parents that excessive - in their eyes - texting and social networking caused all these debaucheries. Which of course is total poppycock to put it mildly.

I remember my high school days, although they are some time ago. We did not have social network sites and mobile phones. They were not even a gleam in the eyes of their unborn inventors. Yet I do remember the socially more active specimens of my age group being a tad more precocious than some. They smoked, drank and screwed around at 16. Others did not. Live and let live. Had a study been done in those days they would have shown much the same results percentage wise. You see, there's one line in the report that gave the game away: "Many of the 19.8 percent of teens who reported hyper-texting were female, minority, from lower socioeconomic status and had no father at home". I went to two schools that had a large percentage of students that would fit the above classification and you know what? They would also fit the reports findings to a tee. And yet, as stated, no texting, no social network sites. Might there be another cause for the findings of the report?

Teens are teens. They explore the boundaries of what is possible. They experiment. That's what teens do, even have to do. That's their purpose in life. Let teens be teens. True, as a parent there has to be a certain measure of control and awareness but there also has to be a certain allowance of freedom. In the end most of them will turn out to become well adjusted members of society if they are given the chance. If there is no or little parental control teens may fly off the hook. It happened in ancient Greece, it happened in medieval England, it happens now. This report in my view grossly over-hypes the blame social technologies have in what is the normal behaviour of certain groups of high school kids.


  1. Well written, except the study doesn't blame the technology. It basically says there's a correlation (not causation) between teens who are hypertexters and hypernetworkers and kids who engage in risky behaviour. It digs a little deeper to say teens with little to no parental boundaries are likely to share these correlated traits. A study probably wasn't needed to determine this. It's funny that you seem to take umbrage with the characterization of alcohol, drug use and sex as unsafe. I didn't detect any sort of moralizing on the part of the report authors.

  2. @ Clint: You may be right about the report authors but they should have known that in today's world the results would be explained in that way. I did not base the tone of my post on one article but on many I read about it. All took the moralising stance. Scientists should be aware that when they report cold hard facts they should do so as cleanly as possible. In this case they did not: CNN quotes Scott Frank, the leader of the research team, saying: "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," and: "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."

    So this does sound as a warning to parents that the behaviour of their children is in danger of becoming immoral. Words like 'wake-up call' and 'dangerous health effects' do sound to me very close to moralising. (