Social Networking Linked to Teen Drug, Alcohol Use

August 23, 2011–Teenagers who spend time on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites may be more likely to smoke, drink and use drugs.

According to the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. CASA recently polled more than 2,000 teens and parents of 528 teens online or by phone.

Results showed that compared to teens who did not visit social networking sites daily, those who visited frequently were:

  • 5 times more likely to use tobacco
  • 3 times more likely to drink alcohol
  • 2 times more likely to use marijuana

Most teens – 70% – say they use social networking sites every day The time taken can vary from a minute to a few hours.

But it’s not the fact that teens visit social networking sites that make them more likely to abuse alcohol or other drugs. Instead, the problem seems to be their perception on these sites. In the CASA survey, 40 percent of teens said they had seen pictures of drunk children, including some fainting, and pictures of their peers taking drugs.

CASA report does not prove social networking causes teens to abuse alcohol or other drugs. Surveys like this show association, but not causation.

Parents just don’t understand

Parents may not see the risk. According to the CASA report, about nine in 10 parents believe that social networking does not increase a teen’s risk of drug or alcohol use.

But they may not know what’s on these sites. According to the survey, 64% of parents of teens who show up on social networks say they don’t monitor what’s going on there.

“Parents need to monitor their children on social networks and television,” said CASA President Joseph Califano Jr..

Social networking sites present some unique challenges for parents. These sites are almost Exploding factions and peer groups. So parents should know what their kids are doing, what their friends are doing, and even what their friends’ friends are doing, Califano said.

< div>Reality TV, cyberbullying is also an issue

It’s not just what they see on the internet that influences these decisions. Teens who watch “suggestive teen shows” like Jersey Shore , Teen Mom, 16 and Pregnancy, as well as teen TV shows like Skins or Gossip Girl, according to a CASA survey are also more likely to use tobacco, alcohol or marijuana.

“We expose teens to drugs, alcohol or teens who are intoxicated or Passing out photos, which are an astonishing attack on public health, are suggestive and glorify drinking and drug use,” Califano said.

Cyberbullying also played a role. In CASA’s investigation, Teens who report someone posting annoying or embarrassing things about them online are more likely to abuse drugs. One in five 12- to 17-year-olds has been cyberbullied, according to a survey.

Teens experience peer pressure all the time, and virtual peer pressure through social networking sites is no exception, says Andres Huberman, MD, part of Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., part of Project Outreach in West Hempstead, N.Y. Director

“They see these images without the moral or educational statement that accompanies them, so teens can get the impression that this is the real world and everyone is doing it, So that’s okay,” Huberman said.

Parents should pay close attention to what’s going on, but Huberman, parents of social networking teens, said that would be difficult. Parents, he said, needed to find a way to ways to “meet” their teen’s virtual friends just like they would meet their real friends.