Danger On The Web

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 8:53am

Study finds use of social networking sites increases risky behavior in teens.

Could social network websites lead to drinking and drug use among teens?

A new study suggests it's possible.

70-percent of teens say they venture onto social networking sites every day, and what they see isn't always innocent.

"More than half of them see pictures of kids drunk passed out, and using drugs," says Joseph Califano of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

Experts say repeatedly viewing those images takes the shock value out of what really should be shocking to kids.

"You look to your peer group really as a way to figure out what's normal, what's abnormal, and the more that you see these images, it just becomes more so what's normal in other kids your age," explains Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital's Dr. Harsh Trivedi.

That may be the reason behind one finding of a new study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

It shows kids who visit social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter every day are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol and use drugs than kids whose friendships are exclusively off-line.

Child psychiatrists who weren't involved with the study aren't surprised.

"It's a study that makes a lot of sense. It is clinically what I see in my office all the time," says Dr. Trivedi.

Study authors also found viewing sexually suggestive TV shows increased those drug and alcohol risks, along with parents who don't warn their children about the dangers of drug use.

Experts say parents must take the lead in policing kids' online habits.

The study found half of those teens who saw photos of kids drunk or using drugs on social websites first saw them before age 13.


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