February 26, 2020

Social Media and Teen Substance Abuse

Can social media harm your teen or adolescent?

Smart parents know that if they want to help protect their teenagers from the dangers of alcohol and drugs, they have to stay involved with the “4 W’s” of their children’s lives:

  • WHO will you be with?
  • WHAT will you be doing?
  • WHERE will you be?
  • WHEN will you be home?
Social Media and Pro-Drug Messages

Unfortunately, thanks to today’s technology, that diligence may not be enough. With computers, tablets, and smart phones, teenagers are omni-connected to an overwhelming plethora of influences. And if they are on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and many others, they may be getting exposed to negative images that can have a profound effect on their behavior.

According to a report by CASAColumbia:

  • 86% of US high school students report that they personally know classmates who smoke, drink, or use drugs during the school day.
  • 44% know another student who sells drugs at their school.
  • 52% say there is a nearby place – or a place on school grounds – where students go during the school day to smoke, drink, or use drugs.
  • 36% say it’s easy to do so without getting caught.
  • 45% of teenagers have seen pictures on social media of other teens drinking, using drugs, or passed out.
  • 47% of those teenagers who saw the pictures say it looked like the people in the pictures were enjoying themselves.
  • 75% of adolescents/teens (12-17-year-olds) say that pictures on social media of teens “partying” encourages other teens to do the same.

How strong is the influence of those social media images?

Teens who have seen those pictures are 4 times as likely to use marijuana, more than 3 times as likely to drink alcohol, and nearly 3 times as likely to smoke cigarettes.

“Digital peer pressure moves beyond a child’s friends and the kids they hang out with. It invades the home and a child’s bedroom via the Internet.”

~ Joseph A. Califano, former US Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, and Founder of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia)

What Can Parents Do to Protect Their Teenagers from Hazards on Social Media?

Monitoring what your child does online is a sticky issue. On one hand, you want to TRUST your child–to believe that they will resist peer pressure and make good choices.

But at the same time, the unfortunate reality is that there are social media dangers that can seriously harm the health and well-being of your adolescent or teens.

Here are a few tips to help protect your children from online dangers:

  1. Open communication – Start by talking with your adolescent, tween, or teenager about the dangers of substance use and how to resist peer pressure. Make sure to establish clear boundaries about what you expect of them. Keep the conversation two-sided by listening to their concerns and answering their questions.
  2. Know the apps they use – Check ALL their devices so you know what apps they have installed. Put those same apps on your devices and familiarize yourself with how they work. Join your child’s network so you can see who they are communicating with.
  3. Get access – Have your child give you their passwords, so they can’t block you from seeing what they post. It also makes it harder for them to delete posts without your knowledge.
  4. Install a monitoring system – There are many programs/apps you can install to set access limits on each device and for each person. This allows you to limit their screen time and lets you track what your child is doing online and who they are talking to. This is especially necessary with younger adolescents and teens.

If you’re wondering if all this is necessary, remember that teenager’s brains are still developing until their early 20s. This means that you need to stay diligent and exert all of your parental influence if you want to protect your children as much as possible.

Where to Get Help

Teensavers Treatment Centers have been helping teenagers with substance abuse or emotional disorder for over 35 years. If your teen has fallen into the trap of alcohol or drug use and your family needs professional help, contact Teensavers today to find out what you can do to protect your child’s health and future.

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