Study: Teens on social networking sites are more likely to use alcohol, drugs

Photo Credit: Brightonhospitalvlog.org

Photo Credit: Brightonhospitalvlog.org

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According to a recent survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia), teens that use social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are more likely to use drugs and alcohol than teens that do not use social media at all.

In March of 2011, CASA Columbia surveyed more than 2,000 12- to 17-year-olds whether they spend time on sites such as Facebook on a daily basis. Shockingly the researchers discovered approximately 70 percent of those surveyed spend time on social media sites from a few minutes to hours every day, while 30 percent of the students do not use any kind of networking site.

Comparing students who use social networking sites to those who do not, teens that are on social media sites are: five times likelier to use tobacco; three times likelier to use alcohol; and twice as likely to use marijuana.

“The relationship of social networking site images of kids drunk, passed out, or using drugs and of suggestive teen programming to increased teen risk of substance abuse offers grotesque confirmation of the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Columbia’s Founder and Chairman and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

The CASA Columbia survey also shows that at least 40 percent of students on social networking sites have seen photos on Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace of peers drinking alcohol, using drugs, or passed out from the use of alcohol and/or drugs. Half of teens who have seen photos of peers using alcohol or drugs saw the photos at or below the age of 13, while more than 90 percent have seen such photos at or below the age of 15.

Researchers have conducted that teens who have seen photos of peers on social networking sites are: three times more likely to use alcohol; four times more likely to use marijuana; four times more likely to be able to get marijuana, almost three times more likely to be able to get controlled prescription drugs without a prescription, and more than twice as likely to be able to get alcohol in a day or less; and much likelier to have friends and classmates who abuse illegal and prescription drugs.

Once the survey was complete, researchers also found that approximately 19 percent, or 4.5 million, of teenagers are being bullied or harassed on the Internet, or cyber-bullying. For those who don’t know, Cyber-bullying is the use of technology to bully, put down, or humiliate another person.

“The time has come for those who operate and profit from social networking sites like Facebook to deploy their technological expertise to curb such images and to deny use of their sites to children and teens who post pictures of themselves and their friends drunk, passed out or using drugs. Continuing to provide the electronic vehicle for transmitting such images constitutes electronic child abuse,” concluded Califano.

In a week, approximately 32 percent of teens watch reality shows such as MTV’s Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, 16 and Pregnant, Skins, and Gossip Girl. Out of those who watch those programs or similar shows are: Twice as likely to use tobacco; almost twice as likely to use alcohol; more than one-and-a-half times more likely to use marijuana; Twice as likely to be able to get marijuana within a day or less; and more than one-and-a-half times more likely to be able to get prescription drugs without a prescription within a day or less.

“The anything goes, free-for-all world of Internet expression and suggestive television programming that teens are exposed to on a daily basis puts them at increased risk of substance abuse,” said Califano.

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