Parents Should Fear Facebook

There is data indicating a correlation between Facebook and teens using drugs. Teens who use Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace frequently are twice as likely to use marijuana and three times more likely to drink alcohol.

Researchers have found a link between substance abuse and teenagers who use social networking sites on a daily basis.  Compared to teens who don’t visit social networking sites, teens who spend time every day on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and similar websites are two times more likely to use marijuana and three times more likely to drink alcohol.  They have a three times greater likelihood of abusing prescription drugs and are five times more likely to smoke cigarettes.

The findings were the result of a survey of over 2,000 teenagers conducted by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) and were described in a study that was recently published by the center. According to Joseph A. Califano, Jr., chairman and founder of the center, the data should “strike Facebook fear into the hearts of parents.”

Encouraging Reckless Behavior

Facebook and other websites that allow teens to upload photos and videos are rife with images of teens getting drunk, using drugs and passing out. Califano describes the display of these images as “electronic child abuse.” The study also examined the influence of television, especially reality shows, on the behavior of teenagers. One third of the teenagers who participated in the survey said they watched suggestive shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom.” These teens are twice as likely to use marijuana and drink.

When teens are exposed to images of substance abuse on the Internet and television, there is no accompanying moral or education guidance about the behavior depicted. Snooki and the gang from “Jersey Shore” are shown getting drunk week after week with little consequence aside from drunken brawls and the occasional arrest with a slap on the wrist penalty. Teens who don’t have a strong family support system are likely to come away with the message that this behavior is common and acceptable.

The CASA survey also asked more than 500 parents if they thought social networking sites and television made their children more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs. Almost 90% of parents surveyed said they didn’t think there was a correlation between suggestive images and substance abuse.  Only 64% of parents admitted to monitoring their teen’s Facebook page.

According to the study, 12 million teens between the ages of 12 and 17 spend time on social networking sites every day. This amounts to 70% of children in that age bracket. Califano urged parents to instill in their children the skills needed to stay afloat in the midst of “corrupting cultural currents” that society forces them to navigate.  The study also called on social networking sites to remove images of substance abuse by teenagers and to ban those who post them from using the sites.