Teenagers should listen to their parents who always tell them to avoid going along with the wrong crowd. This could be especially true on the social media. A research has found that Facebook could actually induce risky behaviors on teens.
The study was authored by researcher Thomas Valente for the University of Southern California’s Kerk School of Medicine. It found that teenagers who often see photographs of their Facebook friends engaging in ‘bad’ activities like drinking and smoking are very likely to try those deeds. Worse, they may eventually get hooked to it.
Adolescents could be easily influenced to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. Peer pressure could be taking another form these days. According to the published research, Facebook friends’ online photos could effectively do the trick as most teens may draw perception that smoking or drinking could be ‘cool.’
The study could possibly be the first to analyze the influence of social media on teenagers’ perceptions and activities. It particularly focused on smoking and alcohol intake. The research was published on the most recent edition of Journal of Adolescent Health.
The researcher polled up to 1,563 students who were enrolled at the El Monte Union High School District within Los Angeles County in California during the time of the study. It covered the period from October 2010 to April 2011. Those students were evenly distributed in terms of gender.
The respondents have an average age of 15 years old. About one-fourth of them were Asians while two-thirds were Hispanic. By the end of the study, about 30% of all the respondents had started smoking and more than 50% had tried drinking alcohol.
The research found that the number of a teenager’s social network contacts or friends was not associated with development of risky behavior. However, exposure to those friends’ online photos of drinking or partying could be linked to alcohol use or smoking.
Interestingly, teens who have close friends that don’t drink or smoke could be encouraged to do so by increased exposure to online pictures that depict risky activities. Thus, online friends’ social media behaviors could be a possible source of modern-day peer influence.
This should be significant because up to 95% of teens aged 12 years old to 17 years old across the US regularly access the online media each day. About 80% of those teens use social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to communicate with others.
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