People of all ages turn to Facebook to keep up with friends and family. But a new study says teens who frequently use social networking sites are more likely to smoke, drink and do drugs.
The report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
says kids between the ages of 12-17 who use social networking are five times more likely to use tobacco, three times more likely to drink alcohol and twice as likely to smoke marijuana. Even though those are serious problems, an addiction expert here in Sioux Falls says to take those numbers with a grain of salt.
"That sounds like a bit of a stretch," Prairie View Prevention Center director Darcy Jensen said.
The growth of social networking sites is nothing new. Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are popular with teenagers in KELOLAND.
"Those ages, from 12-17, is really when they're beginning to decide what are the things important to me, what do I value, what do I take risks with," Jensen said.
Jensen works with teenagers regarding drug and substance abuse. She's read the recent Columbia study and says while there are some valid points, it doesn't show a direct link between social networking and using drugs or alcohol.
"I think it's a generalization to say just doing a Facebook page is going to create a concern that, 'Yes, my son or daughter will now be using a substance or smoking,'" Jensen said.
Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 teenagers, 70 percent of whom use social networking on a daily basis. The study says online pictures of peers using drugs or alcohol can affect other teens' decisions, but Jensen says there are a lot of other factors.
"I don't believe that just the imagery itself without some further explanation will be a trigger on its own," Jensen said.
Nevertheless, Jensen says it's still important for parents and kids to talk about this study and the dangers of social networking because there's no way they can avoid it.
"We really can't bubble wrap our kids or put them in a place where they won't have access to this," Jensen said. "We're very much in a world of technology."
Jensen says one of the things she noticed is the study doesn't delineate between teenagers with no drug history and those who do. She says those still using drugs or who have been through rehabilitation may be more susceptible to provoking images.