Drugs, alcohol and Facebook?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A new study is suggesting a link between social networking sites and using tobacco, alcohol and marijuana among youths between the ages of 12 and 17.

More than 1,000 youths and about half of their parents were interviewed. In all, about 70 percent of youth said they used social networking sites.

Those youths were five times more likely to report using tobacco (10 percent versus 2 percent), three times more likely to admit alcohol use (26 percent versus 9 percent) and twice as likely to say they used marijuana (13 percent versus 7 percent).

Regardless of the respondents' ages, alcohol and drug use was higher amongst social network users. For 16- and 17-year-olds, about 20 percent of social network users reported trying marijuana, compared to 11 percent for their non-networking counterparts.

Furthermore, one-third of teens said they regularly watch TV shows such as "Jersey Shore," "16 and Pregnant," "Skins" and "Gossip Girl," and those teens were twice as likely to use tobacco or alcohol.

Considering the study commissioned by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in New York City, it seems legit.

But, what is it actually saying?

The authors of the report called the results "profoundly troubling" and went on to say, "This year's survey reveals how the anything goes, free-for-all world of Internet expression (and) suggestive television programming ... puts teens at sharply increased risk of substance abuse."

It could be an example of "monkey see, monkey do," as about half of the social networking teens said they've seen pictures of kids drunk, passed out or using drugs on these sites. Seeing others partaking in such activities adds another whole layer of peer pressure.

Young people can show off their exploits, which can make others who were not there feel like they're missing out. With increased privacy filters, individuals can tout their rebellious ways with little fear of recourse from parents or school officials.

Another theory is that social network users are more open about what they say. If they're bragging about getting smashed on the weekends, why wouldn't they tell a researcher about that activity? After all, they seem quite proud of themselves, especially if they don't think their parents will find out or care.

Even if parents don't see what their kids are posting online, they can make a difference.

Parents who don't "agree completely" with each other on what to say to their teen about drug use have teens who are three times more likely to use marijuana, than agreeing parents, the study said. In the same way, parents who disagree on what to say about alcohol are twice as likely to have teens who drink.

This finding is far more significant than any supposed link between pop culture and the use of drugs and alcohol.

Parents are the first people to influence their children, and must make that influence count from an early age. Decide how to approach these issues long before they become an issue. Don't assume that your children are avoiding temptations. Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open.

While social networking may make kids more susceptible to becoming users of alcohol and drugs, out-of-touch parents definitely do so.

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  • Gabe the influence of the parent was saddly diminished along time ago as the disiplin that parents used was ?nd by a faceless foe called DHS & the law .and has never recovered , a kid only needs to hint about something and it turns in to a fedral case and thats it , so parents are scared as hell the ,stigma ,jail ,costs ,and just the hasal of dealing with the systom end up CHANGING PEOPLE FOR LIFE , and many take the path of least resistance and let the kids get away with more than i am shuere they would like , but many feel like there hands are tide to some dagree ?

    And in the end no one wins but THE SUTES our live are all $$$$$$$$$$ to the mighty system its not as black and white as many think but if you have never realy delt with it your self you just dont have a handal on it ,out of touch parents are but a small part ,granted there are some but in todays social world its a new ball game and the rules are very grey and many parents think if they just keep the kid so booked up with activitys that they dont have time to get into missjif they will be fine but kids will find a way and no two are the same so what works for one may not work for another ,in the end only time will tell ,give them the info to use and hope that they use it wisely ,and keep your fingers crossed .

    -- Posted by BRUSHPILE on Thu, Aug 25, 2011, at 1:54 PM
  • A significant number of young people have been experimenting with alcohol/drugs and having sex since, oh, I dunno ....ALWAYS. And people have been making claims about popular culture destroying our youth just as long.

    Remember back in the 1950's when Elvis couldn't be shown on TV from the waist down? Or how they said the horrible things about The Beatles in the 1960's? Oh, that devil's rock music, it is ruining our youth!

    The adoption of Facebook, watching Gossip Girl, and other technological/cultural advances have nothing to do with teen sex/alcohol/drug use.

    Hormones and boredom have EVERYTHING to do with it.

    -- Posted by leannsj on Thu, Aug 25, 2011, at 7:11 PM
  • Don't forget dirty dancing too.

    -- Posted by Cookster on Fri, Aug 26, 2011, at 3:51 PM
  • My "theory" if you want to call it that, while likely politically incorrect and therefore not likely to be widely publicly supported by many others, is probably the most glaringly obvious one.

    People who are the most active on social network sites are also those who are more social. Pretty obvious, you would say.

    But what does being more social have to do with anything? The more social someone is, the more people they know, the more they talk to, the more different personalities they encounter, and the more widely ranging activities they come across.

    If we are to believe the basic tenets (and therefore those with the most credit to them) of DARE and other programs typically inflated with other nonsense but based around a few reasonable principles, peer pressure is the number one reason kids try new things (good and "bad").

    I don't know why this should be so "troubling" as it was put; it's painfully obvious, and a study about the coincidental link is most likely to draw false conclusions and erroneous policy decisions in other areas, and is mostly a giant waste of time.

    Money would be better spent on a study determining the link between kids wearing skinny jeans and the effects it has on the weather.

    -- Posted by jlees on Mon, Aug 29, 2011, at 4:55 PM
  • That makes some sense. Being afraid of Facebook is saying that people shouldn't talk to each other, might say something "bad".

    -- Posted by Cookster on Mon, Aug 29, 2011, at 6:30 PM
  • This study seems to make a the unforgivable sin (at least for researchers who should know better) of drawing conclusions based on causality when the study suggests no causation, only correlation.

    There are myriad ways to explain the data...the only conclusion that you can draw is that substance use is higher among social media users. Does that mean that social media users are more likely to be substance users? Not by this data.

    There's a lot of truth to the axiom "There's lies, damned lies, and statistics."

    -Paul the statistician

    -- Posted by Paul.Dalen on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 11:14 AM
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