Facebook: Not Necessarily the Root of All Teen Evils

September 3, 2011

Facebook has changed the landscape of teenage socializing, no one would disagree. While it allows people from across the world to keep in touch and share exciting personal news, it also allows highly susceptible teens to be exposed to illegal activities. According the article, U.S. Teens on Facebook More Likely to Use Drugs, on CBC News, although a new report shows that teens who use Facebook are much more likely to engage in drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse, there may be more factors involved.

The article reports of the study and its results:

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University conducted the back-to-school survey of 1,006 teens who answered questions about their use of social media, TV viewing habits and substance abuse. The findings suggested that compared those aged 12 to 17 who spend no time on social networking sites in a typical day, teens who do were: five times more likely to use tobacco, three times more likely to use alcohol, and twice as more likely to use marijuana.

While these facotids might be accurate, one must ask, “What other factors contribute to the results” The study compared one extreme against everyone else, teens who had no presence on Facebook, and teens who spent any time at all on Facebook. The study also had over 1,000 participants. No information was given on the socioeconomic, age, race, or cultural breakdowns of the group.

These data give one pause. But without more information one should not discount Facebook. The article makes an excellent point of mentioning the role of parents and extra-curricular activities as crucial components in teen abuse of drugs and alcohol. To be fair to Facebook, more information is needed as is a cause-and-effect study of teens, Facebook and alcohol/drug abuse.

What’s the relevance to search? With general purpose research shifting to accommodate social content, we want to understand the “content outputters” before we accept the “inputs” without understanding motivations, provenance, behavior, etc.

Catherine Lamsfuss, September 3, 2011

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