Dr. Thomas W. Valente, professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, and Dr. Grace C. Huang, graduate of the Keck School of Medicine, published new research that indicates that photos of smoking and drinking on social media websites may be one of the most influential factors in causing teens to smoke and drink. The research was presented in the Sept. 3, 2013, edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The study found that more teens who used Myspace were liable to smoke or drink than those who used Facebook preferentially. Facebook users had better grades, spoke more English at home, and were better off financially.
The researchers conclude that social media is a new and unstudied source of peer influence on teens. The scientists also conclude that seeing their friends or peers smoking or drinking on social media was an indication that a given teen was more likely to participate in the same activities.
Thirty-three percent of the participants in the study had a friend that smoked or drank alcohol. Thirty percent of the participants claimed they had smoked during the time frame of the study and 50 percent claimed to have had a least one drink of alcohol. Eighty percent of the students used social networks regularly.
The researchers assert this is the first study that investigated the influence of the visual stimulus of social network photos of smoking and drinking on teen behavior.
The researchers interviewed 1,563 students in the tenth grade from the El Monte Union High School District in Los Angeles County between October of 2010 and April of 2011. The students were asked about heir frequency of use of social media, drinking, and smoking. The study population was evenly divided between the sexes, 66 percent Hispanic or Latino, and 25 percent Asian. This population is representative of the ethnic distribution of El Monte.