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|Did Facebook make them do it?|
In the ever-popular game of "blame the messenger," a new study claims that teens who regularly use Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other online social networks are much more likely to drink, smoke and use marijuana.
Supposedly, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace encourage them to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana. Meanwhile, the reality show "Jersey Shore" can inspire them to try prescription drugs. All this, that is, if you believe a questionable new study about the use and influence of online social networks.
The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVI has been conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), reports the Secaucus New Jersey News.
According to the laughable findings, Americans aged 12 to 17 are at a higher risk of drinking, smoking and drug use the minute they register on a social networking site, reports International Business Times.
Roughly 70 percent of the 1,037 teenagers studied spent time on Facebook and other social networking sites. Those 70 percent were supposedly five times more likely to use tobacco (10 percent vs. 2 percent), three times more likely to drink alcohol (26 percent vs 9 percent), and twice as likely to use marijuana (13 percent vs 7 percent), reports Jennifer Goodwin at USA Today.
About half of teens who regularly use social networking sites said they've seen photos of other teens drunk, passed out or "using drugs" on those sites, according to the survey. Seeing those pictures may give them the idea that "everybody's doing it," said Michael Gilbert, a senior fellow at University of Southern California's Center for the Digital Future.
But, Gilbert said, there also may be other reasons why the 30 percent of teens who don't use social networking aren't drinking and using drugs. For example, there's the distinct possibility that they are growing up in very religious families, or in homes where traditions dictate that children are closely supervised, he said.
Regular viewers of teen TV show such as "Jersey Shore," 16 and Pregnant," "Skins" and "Gossip Girl" were about twice as likely to use tobacco as alcohol, according to the survey.
Former U.S. Secretary of Health Joseph A. Califano, Jr., the head of the Center, encouraged social networking sites to "correct the possible damage" they cause, or that the study claims they cause.
"The results are profoundly troubling ... the anything goes, free-for-all world of Internet expression, suggestive television programming and what-the-hell attitudes put teens at sharply increased risk of substance abuse," Califano said in a statement.
Such sites have to utilize their techie knowledge to help "enhance their image," according to Califano. Specifically, they have to deny the supposed "adverse impact" they have on teens and children.
Observers are questioning the intentions of CASA in releasing the results. Skeptics said the research doesn't adequately control for other influences, reports John Keilman at the Chicago Tribune.
For example, having a parent who drinks heavily or uses drugs, or living in a neighborhood where such things are commonplace, according to critics, would likely have much more power than social media over a child's decision to use drugs or alcohol.
Some also questioned why CASA needed to cause such drama -- for example, featuring on their homepage photos of a teenage boy smoking and a girl "engaged in illegal drug use." CASA explained the pictures were depictions of "electronic child abuse."
The study also found that 9 out of 10 parents do not think teens spending time on social sites like Facebook are any likelier to drink or use drugs. Only 64 percent of parents whose kids use social networking sites monitor their use.