Facebook, Myspace photos influence smoking, alcohol use
Social media networks, such as Facebook and Myspace, can be a source of peer pressure to engage in risky behavior, according to a new study from the University of Southern California (USC).
The new study, published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health, is the first to examine the effects of social media on certain teenagers’ activities. Findings showed that seeing online pictures of friends smoking or drinking alcohol can cause teenagers to feel influenced to partake in the same activities.
Researchers surveyed more than 1,500 10-th grade students from Los Angeles County about their online and offline friendships, frequency of social media use and smoking and alcohol consumption. They found that exposure to friends’ online pictures of partying or drinking was significantly associated with both smoking and alcohol use. They also found that teenagers whose close friends did not smoke or drink alcohol were more likely to be affected by exposure to online pictures of teenagers engaging in risky behavior.
Evidence suggests that posting pictures of risky behavior is a significant source of peer pressure, researchers said. Since there is still relatively little known about how social media use affects adolescent health behaviors, researchers said that more studies might examine how online and offline friendships differ in terms of activities and interactions they have with each other.