Study: Social Networking Teens More Likely to Smoke, Drink, Use Pot

Paul Lilly

Researchers at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University just released a study that's sure to ruffle a few feathers, and may freak out parents of Facebooking teens. What the study found is that teens who regularly hop onto Facebook, MySpace, or other social networking sites are much more likely to do things they shouldn't be doing, like drinking alcohol and smoking pot.

Compared to teens that don't spend any time on social networking sites, regular users are five times more likely to smoke or chew tobacco, three times as likely to drink alcohol, and twice as likely to use marijuana, according to the " National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVI: Teens and Parents ."

The study also examined the behavior of teens who watch suggestive teen programming, like Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, and 16 and Pregnant. Compared to teenagers who don't watch these and other suggestive teen programming, those that do are twice as likely to use tobacco and/or drink alcohol, more than one-and-a-half times as likely to smoke pot, twice as likely to get marijuana within a day or less, and more than one-and-a-half times likelier to get their hands on prescription drugs in a day or less.

"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 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."

According to CASA, parents are burrying their heads in the sand to a problem that exists. Some 87 percent of parents said they didn't believe spending time on social networking sites makes it more likely their teen will drink alcohol, and 89 percent felt the same way about drug use.

Not everyone is buying the results, or at least the slant CASA is putting on the findings. According to Michael Gilbert, a senior fellow at University of Southern California's Center for the Digital Future, just because social networking teens are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol doesn't mean that one leads to the other, USA News reports .

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