Social networking increases risk of teen drug abuse: study

WASHINGTON Wed Aug 24, 2011 4:22pm EDT

A Twitter page is displayed on a laptop computer in Los Angeles October 13, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

A Twitter page is displayed on a laptop computer in Los Angeles October 13, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Time spent social networking increases the risk of teens smoking, drinking and using drugs, according to a national survey of American attitudes on substance abuse released on Wednesday.

On a typical day, 70 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 -- 17 million teenagers -- spend from a minute to hours on Facebook, Myspace and other social networking sites, according to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

But for this same age bracket, social-network-savvy teens are five times more likely to use tobacco; three times more likely to use alcohol; and twice as likely to use marijuana than teens who do not spend any of their day on social networking sites.

"The results are profoundly troubling ... the anything goes, free-for-all world of Internet expression, suggestive television programing and what-the-hell attitudes put teens at sharply increased risk of substance abuse," CASA Founder and Chairman Joseph Califano Jr said in a statement.

Knowledge Networks surveyed 1,037 teens ages 12 to 17 and 528 parents of these teens over the Internet. QEV Analytics, Ltd. conducted the annual telephone survey of 1,006 teens 12 to 17, asking questions CASA has used to track trends.

Results revealed that half of teens who spend any time social networking in a given day have seen pictures of kids "drunk, passed out, or using drugs on these sites."

But even beyond the daily teen social networkers, 14 percent of teens who reported spending no time on such sites in a given day said they have seen pictures of drunk, passed out, or drug-using kids on the sites.

Teens who had seen such pictures were four times likelier to be able to get marijuana, three times likelier to be able to get prescription drugs without a prescription, and twice as likely to be able to get alcohol in a day at most.

Teens who had seen such pictures were also more than twice as likely to think they would try drugs in the future, and much more likely to have friends who used illegal drugs.

"Especially troubling-- and alarming-- are that almost half of the teens who have seen pictures ... first saw such pictures when they were 13 years of age or younger," the report said. "These facts alone should strike Facebook fear into the hearts of parents of young children."

But the surveys, which also questioned adults, found that nine of 10 parents do not think teens spending time social networking are any more likely to drink or use drugs.

Only 64 percent of parents said they monitor their child's social networking page.

The authors of the report called for parents -- still the greatest influence on a teen's decision whether to smoke, drink, or use drugs -- to present a consistent and unified front against substance abuse.

"In the cultural seas into which we toss our teens, parents are essential to preventing their substance abuse."

The report also urged operators of social networking sites to curb such images and deny use to adolescents who post them.

"Continuing to provide the electronic vehicle for transmitting such images constitutes electronic child abuse," it said.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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Comments (6)
EricTbone wrote:
“social-network-savvy teens are five times more likely to use tobacco; three times more likely to use alcohol; and twice as likely to use marijuana than teens who do not spend any of their day on social networking sites”

The CORRELATION described in the article could have AT LEAST three reasons:

(1) Doing drugs causes kids to be more attracted to social networking.
(2) Social networking causes kids to do drugs.
(3) Kids who do drugs are also more likely to be into social networking (and visa versa), for other reasons (personality type, affluence, technical literacy, etc.)

You selected the most sensational of the three and ran it as a headline, or you’re unaware that correlation does not equal causation.

Aug 24, 2011 5:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Yorick.Brown wrote:
This article is skewed and it uses social networking as a scapegoat for what always existed as a trend: “Popular kids tend to be more open to substance abuse in regards to tobacco, alcohol and other drugs”.

Facebook, twitter and other social networks might make such connections more observable, but they are far from the cause of said negative behavior.

Aug 24, 2011 9:51pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
willzimm wrote:
Everyone knows that Facebook is the BIGGEST peer pressure of all!!! Your teens see pictures of their peers smoking, drinking, partying and doing drugs and they want to do the same thing. I wish Facebook never existed or any social networking never existed. Parental controls on the computer does NOT protect the teens 100%. They know how to circumvent it 100% of the time by using proxies. They search and search and search for ways to circumvent so they can go on Facebook, porn sites, etc. via proxy sites. This means that you will have to chase after your teen’s circumvention. Also, if you already do not know, most of the drug dealing and illegal substance discussions are happening in Facebook Chat, IM, and texting. Not only drugs, they do cigars, alcohol, oxycontin, robitussin, you name it, they will do it all. If you catch them with weed, they will move on to cigars and cigarettes. If you catch them with tobacco, they move on to alcohol and shrooms. If you catch them with those, they move on to robitussin and oxycontin. It is a never-ending chase. Facebook allows them to have continuous contact with their alumni friends that are 18 or over to get cigarettes and 21 and over alumni friends to get alcohol. If you see your teen has a lighter and eye drops in their backpack and/or bedroom, you already know that you have a teen pothead. It is a never-ending chase for the parents.

Aug 25, 2011 3:23am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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