Posted at 01:05 PM ET, 08/24/2011

Social media may make kids more likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, study says


Parents are unaware of the correlation, according to the study. (THIERRY ROGE - REUTERS)
Have you heard? Social media is ruining our lives! Or maybe it’s making them better? Could there be, perchance, some mystical middle ground?

While that debate rages on, here is a score in the social-media-may-be-harmful category. Using sites, such as Facebook and Myspace, makes teens more likely to drink, use illegal drugs and buy tobacco, according to a study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

Of the roughly 2,000 teens surveyed, 70 percent said they spend time on a social media site during the day. Kids in that group are five times more likely to buy tobacco, three times more likely to use alcohol and two times more likely to use marijuana. Parents are unaware of the correlation, according to the study. Nine out of 10 surveyed said they don’t think there’s a link.

(Read the whole study here.)

The center surveyed teens between ages 12 and 17, 1,006 over the phone and 1,037 online.

So why can social media use seemingly turn kids into party animals? Because they see pictures of their peers doing these illegal things, of course. Yes, kids can be fascinated by images of their friends holding red cups, getting sick and passing out.

“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,” the study said. “Continuing to provide the electronic vehicle for transmitting such images constitutes electronic child abuse.”

But the center’s chairman Joseph Califano didn’t seem ready to put the blame on the sites completely. “We’re not saying (social media) causes it,” Cailfano told the Chicago Tribune. “But we are saying that this is a characteristic that should signal to (parents) that, well, you ought to be watching.” The Tribune also points out that these studies are relatively new.

And if you need a little reference, there are more than 53 million people between the ages of 5 and 17 in the United States, according to the Census Bureau.

Would the correlation be surprising to anyone? This form of peer pressure may be taking place in a relatively new medium, but it’s certainly not a new concern.

By  |  01:05 PM ET, 08/24/2011

 
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