Time spent social networking increases the risk of teens smoking, drinking and using drugs, according to a national survey of American attitudes on substance abuse.
On a typical day, 70 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 -- 17 million teenagers -- spend from a minute to hours on Facebook, Myspace and other social networking sites, according to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.
But for this same age bracket, social-network-savvy teens are five times more likely to use tobacco; three times more likely to use alcohol; and twice as likely to use marijuana than teens who do not spend any of their day on social networking sites.
"The results are profoundly troubling ... the anything goes, free-for-all world of Internet expression, suggestive television programing and what-the-hell attitudes put teens at sharply increased risk of substance abuse," CASA Founder and Chairman Joseph Califano Jr said in a statement.
According to the survey results on which the findings were based, half of teens who spend any time social networking in a given day have seen pictures of kids "drunk, passed out, or using drugs on these sites."
Teens who had seen such pictures were four times likelier to be able to get marijuana, three times likelier to be able to get prescription drugs without a prescription, and twice as likely to be able to get alcohol in a day at most. Teens who had seen such pictures were also more than twice as likely to think they would try drugs in the future, and much more likely to have friends who used illegal drugs.
"Especially troubling-- and alarming-- are that almost half of the teens who have seen pictures ... first saw such pictures when they were 13 years of age or younger," the report said. "These facts alone should strike Facebook fear into the hearts of parents of young children."