Skip to content

Health & Parenting

Social Networking Tied to Teen Drug, Alcohol Use

Survey Shows Parents Underestimate How Social Networks Affect Teens' Risk of Using Drugs or Alcohol
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Aug. 23, 2011 -- Teens who spend time on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and other social networking sites may be more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and use drugs.

That's according to Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). CASA recently polled more than 2,000 teens online or by phone, as well as 528 parents of teens.

The results show that compared to teens who don't visit social networking sites daily, those who do are:

  • Five times more likely to use tobacco
  • Three times more likely to drink alcohol
  • Twice as likely to use marijuana

Most teens -- 70% -- said they spend anywhere from one minute to hours a day on social networking sites.

But it's not the fact that teens visit social network sites that makes them more likely to abuse alcohol or other drugs. Instead, the issue seems to be what they view on those sites. Forty percent of the teens in CASA's survey said they have seen images of intoxicated kids, including some who are passed out, as well as pictures of peers using drugs.  

The CASA report does not prove that social networking caused teens to abuse alcohol or other drugs. Surveys like this show associations but cannot prove cause and effect.

Parents Just Don’t Understand

Parents may not see the risk. CASA's report shows that about nine out of 10 parents don't think that social networking raises their teens' risk for drug or alcohol abuse.

But they may not know what's on those sites. The survey showed that 64% of parents whose teen has a presence on a social network said they don’t monitor what goes on there.

“Parents need to monitor their kids with respect to social networking and the TV shows they watch, and know what their kids’ lives are like,” says CASA President Joseph Califano Jr.

Social networking sites pose some unique challenges for parents. These sites expand cliques and peer groups almost exponentially. As a result, parents should know what their kids are doing, what their friends are doing, and even what their friends’ friends are doings, Califano says.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow