Parents have been warned of the dangers of social networking for years but now there is yet another reason to keep you kids offline — a new study has found that teenagers who use sites like Facebook and Twitter are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs than those who abstain.
Researchers from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that teens who use social networking sites daily are twice as likely to use marijuana, three times as likely to drink alcohol and five times as likely to smoke tobacco.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse surveys thousands of teenagers aged 12 to 17 every year about their drug, alcohol and tobacco use.
This year, scientists added questions about social media and were shocked by the results.
Approximately 70 percent of US teens admitted to using social networking sites every day, and adolescents within that group were far more likely to smoke, drink and use drugs than teens who did not go online as regularly.
Teens within that group who had been cyber-bullied were twice as likely again to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Study leader Joseph A Califano Jr blames the findings on the current trend for teens to post images of themselves drinking and using drugs on their social networking pages. When other teens see these images, they believe such behaviour is normal.
"The relationship of social networking site images of kids drunk, passed out, or using drugs to increased teen risk of substance abuse offers grotesque confirmation of the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words," he says.
Califano says the findings should make all parents strongly consider limiting their children's access to social networking sites, particularly for younger teens.
"The anything goes, free-for-all world of Internet expression and suggestive television programming that teens are exposed to on a daily basis puts them at increased risk of substance abuse," he says.
"The findings in this year's survey should strike Facebook fear into the hearts of parents of young children and drive home the need for parents to give their children the will and skill to keep their heads above the water of the corrupting cultural currents their children must navigate."
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