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St. Joseph Youth Alliance
5223 Mitchell Avenue
St. Joseph, MO 64507
(816) 232-0050

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Social Media: New Medium, Old Problem

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) sponsored research in 2011 which took a look at how teen use of social media could be influencing them toward drug or alcohol use. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr are part of everyday life for most teens. It’s aSocial Media Campaign new medium for an old problem. Could they be normalizing risky behaviors like drug and alcohol use for teens? The CASA study was not able to control for all outside factors, but still suggested that parents be aware of how social networking sites may be influencing their children.

The study surveyed 1,000 teens (12 – 17 years) and parents about social media habits, exposure to drugs and alcohol as well as experimentation. The findings seemed to parallel other studies meaning that the figures are not outside the normative range for the teen demographic – social media alone cannot be blamed. Nevertheless, CASA wants parents to become attuned to what is to be seen and read on social sites. Here’s what they found:

  • 70 percent of teens interacted with a social site on a daily basis
  • 40 percent said they’d seen pictures of friends and others using drugs or alcohol when visiting the sites
  • 26 percent of the teens said they themselves had consumed alcohol
  • 13 percent of the teens said they tried marijuana
  • 10 percent reported having smoked cigarettes

The majority of teens use social media and while they are there they are seeing friends and other young people engaging in risky behaviors. There are too many devices and too many opportunities to access social media once outside of the house to make these sites totally off-limits. CASA suggests that a better approach is to talk with teens about what they see and read when they visit social sites.

It can be helpful to begin the discussion by acknowledging that social networking sites are not all bad. The interactions may not be face to face, but they are still worthwhile. Social media interactions can benefit everyone, including the elderly. However, not everyone uses a good thing in a good way.

Although you can’t always keep your teens from being exposed to wrong and dangerous behavior, you can still talk to them about it. You can go to scholarly studies with your teen and read about the potential health hazards of drinking and using drugs. You can talk about the consequences of illegal behavior. You can emphasize your values as parents and a as a family.

BC Rocks is a county-wide initiative designed to help parents create safe places for kids to gather and have a good time. The program invites parents to sign a public statement promising that their home is alcohol-free and well-supervised. Believe it or not, teens that see their parents taking action against underage drinking are influenced – in a positive way. Why should you allow all of the visuals to work against you? Stand up and let your teen see how important protecting him/her is to you.