Social Media and Substance Use: What Should We Be Recommending to Teens and Their Parents?

With social media increasingly integrated into the lives of today’s teenagers, there are two urgent needs: for further research on online exposure to substance use and for clear recommendations to mental health practitioners, adolescents, and parents about the need to assess and monitor teens’ online exposure to substance use | Journal of Adolescent Health

https://www.flickr.com/photos/roeyahram/6663753891

Image source: Roey Ahram – Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Teens and Social Media

In 2015, 92% of teens aged 13 to 17 years reported going online daily, 24% were online “almost constantly,” and 71% used more than one social networking sit. Social media use is associated with mental health problems including depression, sleep disturbance, and eating concerns among young people. Social media perpetuates social comparison in a world where everything is curated, which is particularly problematic for teens who may be more prone to depressive cognitions in the face of such social comparison.

Social Media and Substance Use

Substance use is rampant and often glorified by celebrities and others on social media. There have been reports of social media being used as a strategy for selling drugs, with hashtags facilitating the process of pairing buyers with sellers. Tobacco, electronic cigarette, and alcohol industries have widely integrated social media platforms into marketing strategies that are fully accessible to teens. In this way social media has opened up doors for these industries to market to youth even when direct marketing to minors is against the law or supposed to be internally regulated. The burgeoning cannabis industry is opening up even more opportunities for teens to have exposure to advertising through social media. Exposure to substance use imagery is associated with subsequent onset in use, which is why drinking alcohol and using drugs in movies warrants an R rating. Social media is harder to regulate.

Full reference: Costello, C.R. & Ramo, D.E. (2017) Social Media and Substance Use: What Should We Be Recommending to Teens and Their Parents? Journal of Adolescent Health. 60(6) pp. 629–630

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