Social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and others, which displayed images of teens abusing alcohol and drugs, “constitutes electronic child abuse”.

 According to a  new study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University suggests that teens who use social media are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.


In a statement, Joseph A. Califano, Jr. the founder and chairman of CASA, said that social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and others, which displayed images of teens abusing alcohol and drugs, “constitutes electronic child abuse”.

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

Representatives from Facebook said the site removes illegal content when it’s pointed out to representatives.

In its August study, the CASA report said that teens that spent “some” time on a social networking site had were five times more likely to use tobacco (10 percent versus 2 percent), three times more likely to use alcohol (26 percent versus 9 percent), and twice as likely (13 percent versus 7 percent) to have used marijuana than teens that did not visit social networking sites at all during a given day.

Pictures of drunken teens spur copycats?

The study also asked teens if they had seen pictures of other teens getting drunk, passed out, or using drugs on the site. Forty percent of all teens said they had; 51 percent of those who used social networking sites regularly also said they had. About half of all the teens surveyed said they had seen those pictures at age 13 or younger.

CASA said it found a link between kids who had seen these pictures and those who had used alcohol, 35 percent to 12 percent. They were also four times more likely to have used marijuana, or 21 percent versus 5 percent, CASA found.

“Compared to teens who have not seen pictures of kids getting drunk, passed out or using drugs on social networking sites, teens who have seen such pictures are more than twice as likely to say they are very or somewhat likely to try drugs in the future (12 percent vs. five percent),” the study said.

Facebook said it has policies in place against illegal drug use.

“Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of the people who use our service, especially the many teens who use Facebook,” Facebook representatives said in a statement. “Our community standards prohibit the promotion of illegal drug use, and we remove this type of content when it’s reported to us. We believe safety both online and off is a shared responsibility between teens, parents, teachers, companies, and other members of the community. Our Family Safety Center provides guidance for teens, parents, and teachers on how to use Facebook safely and positively.”

“Specifically, we recommend that people think before they post and that they report content that may violate our policies – or that makes them uncomfortable – either to Facebook or to the person who shared it,” Facebook added. “Our recently launched social reporting feature allows people to easily notify the content creator when they don’t approve of a particular photo or video he or she has added.”

“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,” Califano wrote.

While social-networking advocates generally recommend monitoring kids’ Internet use, the study found that most parents believe there isn’t any risk from social networking sites. Sixty-four percent of parents whose teen has a social networking page monitor it, the study found. But 9 of 10 parents do not think teens spending time on social networking sites like Facebook are likelier to drink or use drugs, CASA said.

Critics weigh in 

The study wasn’t without its critics, however. Amanda Lenhart, who directs the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s research on teens, children and families wasn’t sure that the study focused on the right elements.

Instead of focusing on the increase of drug use among the 80 percent of those teens who use social sites, studies should examine the 20 percent who don’t use social sites and what makes them different, Lenhart said on Twitter.

In an interview, Lenhart noted that she felt that CASA’s methodology was rigorous and transparent, as it should be. But she said that wasn’t sure that the survey had correctly identified the causal direction, or that social networking led to drug use. “The other possibility is the other side, that if you use drugs and alcohol you’re more likely to use a social networking site,” she said.

To test the relationship, a researcher would have to separate two groups of people, one who used social sites, and one that did not, Lenhart said. Then the behavior of both groups would have to be tracked over time.

Pew’s most recent data on teens and Internet use comes from 2009, when 17 percent of those teens polled said that they had researched something online “that’s hard to talk about,” like drug use. The same poll found that teens were turning to social networking sites, and away from blogs.

CASA’s study also found that almost one in five teens (19 percent) said that they had had someone write embarrassing or mean things about them on a social networking site, which the study called cyberbullying. Overall, 19 percent of teens said they had. Girls are almost twice as likely as boys to be cyber bullied (25 percent vs. 14 percent), the study found. The study also found that cyberbullied teens were more than twice as likely to have used tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana.

The same study also examined the effects of “suggestive teen programming” on TV, concluding that those that watched it in a typical week were about twice as likely to have used tobacco (12 percent vs. 6 percent), alcohol (31 percent vs 17 percent) and pot (15 percent vs 9 percent). “Suggestive” shows included Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, 16 and Pregnant, Skins, and Gossip Girl.

The study classified social sites as “Facebook, MySpace, and other social networking sites,” sampling 1,006 teens via phone; a separate survey polled an additional 1,037 teens via the Internet, plus 528 of their parents.

The study found comparable results for teens that spent varying amounts of time on social networking sites, prompting CASA to compare “some” use of the social sites with those that spent none at all.

Photo credit: Geekologie

Via PC Mag