The Internet is a vast and addicting place. You can spend hours watching cat videos, following your favorite celebrities on Instagram, or playing clan matches in Halo. As exciting as it is to be on the Internet, a new study has found that teens who spend a huge amount of time on the Internet may be at risk of developing high blood pressure.

The study, published in the Journal of School Nursing, found that out of 134 teens who described themselves as heavy Internet users — spending at least 14 hours a week online — 26 of them had elevated blood pressure levels. According to lead author Dr. Andrea Cassidy-Bushrow, a researcher at Henry Ford's Department of Public Health Sciences, moderation is the key to lowering blood pressure levels in all ages.

"Using the Internet is part of our daily life but it shouldn't consume us," she said in a press release. "In our study, teens considered heavy Internet users were on the Internet an average of 25 hours a week. It's important that young people take regular breaks from their computer or smartphone, and engage in some form of physical activity.”

Cassidy-Bushrow recommended that parents try to limit the amount of time their teens spend on the Internet, stating that “two hours a day, five days a week is good rule of thumb."

For the study, researchers compiled data from 335 students aged 14 to 17 who underwent a physical exam, a blood pressure screening, and a 55-part survey regarding their Internet use the week before the physical exam. The survey included questions that asked how the teens spent their time on the Internet, the number of email addresses they owned, and what they used the Internet for.

The researchers defined Internet use as website browsing, creating or maintaining websites, sending emails, instant messaging, shopping, playing games, and doing homework. After compiling their results, they found that, on average, teens spent 15 hours on the Internet at home or in school. They also found that more black teens reported being heavy Internet users when compared to white teens, while more boys than girls were using the Internet overall. Heavy Internet users were also most likely to be overweight, thus explaining the increased risk of high blood pressure.

With only 34 percent of boys and 24 percent of girls attending physical education classes on a daily basis, it’s no wonder 20.5 percent of teens aged 12 to 19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that teens participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. These activities should include aerobic exercises like running, jumping, and swimming; muscle-strengthening exercises like climbing trees, playing tug of war, and swinging on the monkey bars; and bone-strengthening exercises like basketball, tennis, and hopscotch.

Cassidy-Bushrow believes school nurses, armed with her results, could help by monitoring students’ activity levels. "School nurses could conduct annual health screenings where blood pressure and Internet use behaviors could be assessed. Students with an elevated blood pressure would then have a follow-up visit to determine next steps."

Source: Cassidy-Bushrow, A, et al. Time Spent on the Internet and Adolescent Blood Pressure. Journal of School Nursing. 2015.