American teens ages 12-17 who in a typical day spend any time on social networking sites are at increased risk of smoking, drinking and drug use, according to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVI: Teens and Parents, the 16th annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia).
For the first time this year, the survey asked 12- to 17-year olds whether they spend time on Facebook, Myspace or other social networking sites in a typical day. Seventy percent of teens report spending time on social networking sites in a typical day compared to 30 percent of teens who say they do not. This means that 17 million 12- to 17-year olds are social networking in a typical day.
Social Networking Teens at Increased Substance Abuse Risk
Compared to teens that spend no time on social networking sites in a typical day, teens that do are:
- Five times likelier to use tobacco;
- Three times likelier to use alcohol; and
- Twice as likely to use marijuana.
Teen Substance Abuse Photos Rampant on Social Networking Sites
The CASA Columbia survey found that 40 percent of all teens surveyed have seen pictures on Facebook, Myspace or other social networking sites of kids getting drunk, passed out, or using drugs. Half of teens who have seen pictures of kids drunk, passed out, or using drugs on Facebook and other social networking sites first saw such pictures when they were 13 years of age or younger; more than 90 percent first saw such pictures when they were 15 or younger.
Compared to teens that have never seen pictures of kids getting drunk, passed out, or using drugs on social networking sites, teens that have seen these images are:
- Three times likelier to use alcohol;
- Four times likelier to use marijuana;
- Four times likelier to be able to get marijuana, almost three times likelier 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.
Parental Perceptions Out of Touch with Reality
Eighty-seven percent of parents said they think spending time on social networking sites does not make it more likely their child will drink alcohol; 89 percent of parents felt it would not make their child more likely to use drugs.
Cyber Bullying and Substance Abuse
The CASA Columbia survey also found that 19 percent of teens ages 12-17 (more than 4.5 million teens) report being cyber bullied (having someone post mean or embarrassing things about them on a social networking site). Compared to teens who are not cyber bullied, teens who have been cyber bullied are more than twice as likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana.
“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. “The findings in this year’s survey should strike Facebook fear into the hearts of parents of young children and drive home the need for parents to give their children the will and skill to keep their heads above the water of the corrupting cultural currents their children must navigate.”
Excerpt used with permission from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. (2011). National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVI: Teens and Parents. New York: The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.