So the internet is buzzing with the news that a recent Columbia University (Center on Alcohol and Substance Abuse) study found that teens who use Facebook are five times more likely to use tobacco, nearly three times more likely to use alcohol and nearly twice as likely to smoke marijuana than those who do not. This news has many people criticizing Facebook and other social media sites saying that they encourage this type of behavior in youths. While it is important to investigate this case further it has already been stated many times over that while these two behaviors (use of social media and drug/alcohol abuse) may be related one is not necessarily the cause of the other.
One of the researches sited the high-volume of pictures posted on Facebook that show teens participating in illegal activities related to alcohol and/or drugs. They stated that “more than 90 percent first saw such pictures when they were 15 or younger” and said that “these facts alone should strike Facebook fear into the hearts of parents of young children.” While these numbers are disturbing it is not just Facebook that is the source of these images.
There are many reasons why this study’s attempt to blame these numbers on Facebook are flawed. Firstly, teens are exposed to other young people getting drunk and using drugs in many more places than just through their online social network. There are plenty of television shows and movies that glorify teen drug and alcohol use. Also, unless their parents have very strict parental controls on their browser I am sure that they can find these images online on sites other than Facebook. Secondly, as the TIME article cited earlier states teen drug use has actually decreased since the invention of the internet and long before social media.
Still, even though this study is highly flawed it may cause parents to monitor their teen’s use of social media or even forbid them from using it. While I do think that parents should be paying attention to their children this could cause problems for Facebook considering how the teen demographic makes up a great number of their users. While I think it will take far more than one study to hurt Facebook in any serious way they should be paying attention to the chatter about this study and, if need be, prepare a counter attack.