American teenagers who spend time on social networking websites are more likely to smoke, drink, and use drugs, according to an annual survey conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA).
The “National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVI: Teens and Parents” found that 70 percent of kids ages 12 to 17 — about 17 million — now spend time on the social sites on any given day, compared to 30 percent who said they do not.
As a result, the CASA survey concluded, those 17 million are five times more likely to use tobacco products, three times more likely to use alcohol, and two times more likely to use marijuana.
Among those who admitted to using Facebook, MySpace, and other networking sites on any typical day, 40 percent said they had seen pictures of kids getting drunk and using drugs.
The survey found that viewing those images made it three times more likely that teens would try alcohol, four times more likely they would use marijuana, and three times more likely they would try to obtain controlled substances without a prescription.
“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,” said CASA founder Joseph Califano, the former secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.
He called on Facebook and other networking operations to deny use of their sites to children and teens who post images of themselves drinking or using drugs.
“Continuing to provide the electronic vehicle for transmitting such images constitutes electronic child abuse,” Califano charged.
Among the other findings in the survey of 1,037 kids and 528 parents conducted in March and April of this year:
• Teens who watch suggesting television programming are nearly two times more likely to use alcohol and marijuana;
• Some 19 percent of those surveyed reported being the victims of cyber bullying or having embarrassing things posted about them on the Internet;
• More than 60 percent of high school kids say they attend schools where drugs are used and sold on school grounds; and
• Parents are in denial; 89 percent of parents surveyed said they do not believe using social networking sites would make their kids more likely to use drugs and 87 percent said it would not lead kids to drink.
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