texting

  1. Plug in, tune out -- and drop dead

    The great thing about headphones is they allow you to tune out the rest of the world. And the worst thing about headphones is that they allow you to tune out the rest of the world.

    Too many headphone-wearing pedestrians -- most of them kids and young adults -- forget the rest of the world even exists once their music starts playing, and it's leading to some terrible tragedies.

    The number of people struck by cars, trains, trucks or buses and killed or seriously injured has tripled in just six years -- and, to the surprise of no one, more than two-thirds of the victims were under 30 years old.

    The overall numbers aren't that eye-popping: Just 16 injuries and deaths in 2004-2005, growing to 47 by 2010-2011, or 116 in total over those six years, according to the research published in Injury Prevention.

    But that's not the complete picture -- just what researchers were able to come up with by scouring Google News and a couple of federal injury databases.

    I'd bet the true numbers are higher -- much higher, and in the coming years distracted walking might turn into as big an issue as distracted driving, especially in pedestrian-crowded cities.

    After all, the new study looked at just music players and headphones -- but plenty of other people talk, text and/or e-mail while walking, leading to even more serious injuries.

    One recent study found more than 1,000 walkers -- again, mostly younger people -- sent to emergency rooms for trips, tumbles and other accidents that happened while they were talking or texting in 2008.

    That was double the number of injuries from the previous year... which was almost double the number of injuries from the year before that -- and we're not talking stubbed toes and bruised bottoms here: Distracted walking has been causing concussions, sprains and fractures.

    And, as the newest study shows all too well, death.

    You're probably too smart to try to text, listen to music and cross the street at the same time. But your kids and grandkids may not be getting the message.

    Be sure to let them know -- even if you have to text them to get their attention.

  2. Teen texting tied to risky behavior

    If there are any teens in your life, you know the drill: Don't try to talk to them, even if they're in the same room as you.

    Send a text message instead.

    But new studies show that all those text messages come with real risks, and not just in the form of thumb and wrist pain.

    One new study finds that kids who send the most text messages are more likely to engage in bad behavior... while another shows how all that texting may be keeping them awake at night.

    In the first new study, researchers found that kids who send the most text messages--an average of 120 per school day (yes, it's possible!)--have a much higher risk of engaging in unhealthy behaviors than those who send few messages.

    Researchers say these super-texters were 40 percent more likely to have tried smoking and 43 percent more likely to be binge drinkers than those who didn't text much.

    These kids were also 41 percent more likely to have used drugs, 55 percent more likely to have been involved in a fight and 3.5 times more likely to have had sex.

    They're also 90 percent more likely to have had four or more sexual partners.

    The same study found that 11.5 percent of kids spent more than three hours a day on social networking Web sites like Facebook, and that these children were also more likely to be smokers, drinkers, drug users and sexually active than those who spent less time online.

    But let's get back to texting--because another new study finds that kids who can't sleep might be staying up just to send and receive those little one-liners.

    A researcher who examined 40 insomniac children and young adults between the ages of 8 and 22 years old found that the kids were actually sending out waves of text messages after their supposed bedtimes.

    In all, these kids were sending an average of 33.5 texts each night after lights-out. Some of them even woke up throughout the night to check for new messages--and respond to them.

    Truth be told, that sounds like some adults with their BlackBerry devices--so maybe the apples aren't falling all that far from some of those trees.

    Of course, none of this means your text-happy children or grandchildren will turn into drinking, smoking, sex-addicted insomniacs. But keep tabs on them just the same--even if you have to send a text message to schedule a little face time.

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