What Role Does Social Media Play in Exposing Teens to Alcohol and Drugs?

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(Newswire.net — April 29, 2015) Hollywood, CA  — “Of all the gin joints in all the towns, in all the world…”

 The above quote, taken from the 1942 movie Casablanca is one of the most famous lines in cinema history. The use of alcohol, drugs and other dangerous substances has been permeating pop culture since the very beginning. Having Johnny Depp light up a joint or Jack Nicholson swig on a glass of Jack Daniels certainly tends to have a glamorizing effect on these dangerous vices.

 While this is still as prevalent as ever in Hollywood, a different medium is acting as a direct delivery service for the sensationalizing of drug and alcohol abuse on impressionable young minds: social media.

 Almost thirty percent of the entire world’s population is currently active on social media. Every single person on these sites offers up a different viewpoint that is available with the simple click and drag of your mouse. As teens make up a huge chunk of this statistic, the sharing of drug and alcohol abuse via a Twitter post, embarrassing Instagram photo, Facebook diatribe or YouTube video is a reality that young, moldable minds currently live in.

Peer Pressure

Influence can simply not be understated. Peer pressure has been acknowledged as an undeniable factor in personal growth since the time of Aristotle. The need to fit in and adapt to our surroundings is ingrained in the wiring of young minds. This feeling is never stronger than it is during the teenage years.

Middle school? High School? Growing up? It’s scary stuff. Teens turn to each other for observed guidance on not only how to cope but how to thrive in a time of uncertainty. This is also a time when many teens discover and experiment with drugs and alcohol. This is almost always learned behavior seen from another teen or perceived role model. The rise of social media makes this peer pressure to conform and fit in increasingly troublesome.

Navigating a Dangerous Landscape

Facebook admitted that it is basically powerless against young users creating a profile page. With users as young as 9 years old glued to their screens and ingesting whatever is front of them, there is a dangerous amount of exposure to drug and alcohol use.

According to a survey taken from 2012, 75% of 12-to-17-year-olds said that seeing pictures of other teens partying with alcohol or marijuana on Facebook made them want to replicate such behaviors. This startling statistic is all too representative of the content that teens are seeing on a daily basis. It’s also escalated way beyond seeing photos of your older sibling chugging 14 cans of light beer on their Facebook profile.

Don’t Drink and Type

Drinking games fueled by Facebook, Twitter accounts dedicated to young alcoholics, and thousands of Youtube videos dedicated to the topic; this is an all too real backdrop for teens when they boot up their computers or even just take out their phones. Some of these social media accounts have upwards of 300,000 followers. The sheer volume of content that is steeped in promoting the awesome time you’ll have under the influence is staggering.

As the internet is a completely free and open playground of opinions, there is sadly not much that can be done to completely silence this sector of users. The amount of peer pressure that stems from seeing thousands of people commenting with heart faced emojis and seeing the amount of followers climb on an almost daily basis is all too real.

What can be done?

The importance of a positive parental force or other role model in a young teen’s life has never been more paramount. While it’s impossible to completely shield a teenager from being exposed to some form of substance abuse related media, there are steps to alleviate some risk.

Cutting a teenager’s laptop power cord or taking away their smart phone’s entirely would obviously be the most concrete way of limiting exposure, but it’s simply not realistic in this day and age.  The best action is to take a more hands-on approach with monitoring activity. A big trend is for teens to share all of their social media passwords with their parents. This requires some light treading, but can certainly reduce the threat of seeing abuse via social media.

Lastly, starting an honest dialogue and not taking a backseat to what a teenager is exposed to could make all the difference in the world. 


About the Author: Andrea enjoys spending her time writing about the issues closest to her heart including home improvement, business and youth alcohol/drug addiction. Follow her on Twitter@ https://twitter.com/jones05_a