25 Aug 2011 10:41 AM EST
-by Alex Mangini, Staff Writer
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has found that teenagers who use social media are more likely to drink and use drugs.
"We're not saying [social media] causes it," Joseph Califano, the center's chairman, told the Chicago Tribune. "But we are saying that this is a characteristic that should signal to [parents] that, well, you ought to be watching."
Their special back-to-school survey illustrates that teens that spend any time at all social networking are five times more likely to use tobacco, three times more likely to abuse alcohol, and twice as likely to use marijuana than those that do not use such sites.
The NCASA does these surveys annually in order to track teens' attitudes on drinking, smoking and drug abuse. This year marks the first that it added questions about social media.
Dana Litt, a psychologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, did an experiment last year where she showed teens Facebook profiles that depicted adolescents drinking, the Tribune explains.
"I found that even in a fairly brief exposure … individuals who saw these alcohol images said they were more willing to get drunk in the future and thought the type of person who got drunk was more favorable," she said.
"When someone constantly sees photos of parties, they sort of feel they're missing out," Michael Degrace, a 17 year-old high school student said. "It sort of glorifies the whole thing. Especially if you haven't done it before, it could be a gateway to make them think it's all right."
Ray Schellenberger, a high school guidance counselor, however, still believes that more traditional forms of peer pressure will still persist, even given the new technological landscape of socializing.
"If you're sitting at a cafeteria table and talking about what you did over the weekend, that's just as influential as what you're seeing on Facebook," he said.