The Drug Class Blog

Aug 24

Peer Pressure 2011

We are all aware of peer pressure, it has been around for a long time.  The current world of social networking sites has complicated the situation. The article below really clarifies why this can be a problem. 

If teens are on one or more of these sites a lot they are constantly being bombarded with images and posts about partying.  If they are trying to resist those situations it really pushes them to think and feel that they are missing something or worse, that if they aren't doing the same thing that people will think they aren't part of the "crowd"

Article from

By John Keilman and Robert McCoppin, Tribune reporters August 24, 2011

The eternal struggle to keep young people away from bad influences has moved to a new frontier:

A research organization said Wednesday that teens who regularly log on to Facebook and other social networks are considerably more likely to smoke, drink or use marijuana than teens who don't visit the sites.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in New York found that teens who spend time on the social networks are likely to see images of their peers drinking or using drugs — images that could help to convince them that substance abuse is a normal, acceptable activity. "We're not saying (social media) causes it," said Joseph Califano, the center's chairman. "But we are saying that this is a characteristic that should signal to (parents) that, well, you ought to be watching."

The findings are in keeping with a new wave of research into how social networks might affect teen decision-making. Several studies have suggested that Facebook, Myspace and other sites have created a new form of peer pressure, exposing young people to risky behaviors they could be tempted to emulate.

That conclusion rings true to some teens and parents. "The Internet puts it in your head," said Dana Cichon, 16, a junior at Bartlett High School. "You think everyone else is having more fun than you." But some experts warn that the research, like social media itself, is still in its infancy, and that the correlation between social networking and teen substance abuse could be disguising more relevant risk factors.

Others contend that bad influences in the real world are much more potent. What many experts agree on, though, is the importance of parents keeping tabs on their children's Internet activities. "We've always had to be involved in kids' lives," Dave Gomel, of Rockford's Rosecrance addiction treatment center. "This is just a different (method)." The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse does an annual survey to track teens' attitudes on drinking, smoking and drug abuse, and this year it added questions about social media. It found that, compared to young people who avoid the sites, teens who regularly visit them are twice as likely to use marijuana, three times more likely to drink alcohol and five times more likely to use tobacco.

The survey also found that about half of those who use social media have seen online pictures of teens getting drunk or high or passed out, Califano said. Many saw the images before age 14. "I think there's no question there's a relation there," he said. Other research has also suggested a link between social media and teen substance abuse.

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. "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.

While she cautioned that more research is needed — something other than social media could turn out to be the true risk factor — she said the sites might indeed have an outsize influence on what teens think is normal. "Instead of simply knowing what your best friends do, you can see what your 500 Facebook friends do," she said. "I think that it might possibly change their ideas of how common behavior is."

Michael DeGrace, 17, a senior at York High School in Elmhurst, said he regularly sees Facebook posts about drinking and partying. And it's not just images, he added: Status updates that say things like, "I can't remember what happened last night" get the message across as clearly as any photograph. He said that sort of content could influence teens, especially younger ones. Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune

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