Posted August 26, 2011 7:37 am by with 7 comments

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This one falls into the category of “I can see some dotted line connections here, maybe but to draw broad conclusions like this is stupid” category.

According to a study by Columbia University’s (that’s right, the Ivy league school that is supposed to be a place for really smart people) National Center on Addiction and Drug Abuse, it’s more likely that kids who are active in social networking will use drugs. Gee, I am so glad someone finally put two and two together to get five.

Here’s a sample of the findings. The premise is that if teens have seen others drinking and using drugs in pictures on social networking outlets how likely are they to do it themselves or be involved with people that do.

Ok, so let’s get this straight. First, I am not a social scientist and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night so, in other words, my observations are not based on any science. That may automatically marginalize my thoughts on this subject but it doesn’t seem like reason is real high on the list of criteria for this work so why not join in?

Here’s the thing. I would rather that kids, especially mine, not be exposed to this kind of thing. I am also not an idiot. It’s a part of life and sheltering kids tends to turn them into the equivalent of a caged lion being freed from a cage in pen full of gazelles when they are released to the real world. In other words, the more you keep things from them the more they want to try them and when they get the chance they might really go for it. Education on the other hand, can at least give a kid with a decent sense of self and some brains the chance to realize that alcohol and drugs have little to no upside.

Do I think that seeing their friends or friends of friends who display their alcohol and drug exploits online are influencing them to try it themselves? For some yes but they would likely do it anyway with or without the ‘help’ of social networks. For a kid that can see that someone who is acting the fool is not very attractive (which more can than we give credit for) seeing this activity on social networks is just as likely to push them further away as it is to entice them to start.

There is a desire for people to paint social networking as the cause and effect of all things negative. If not the cause or effect it is given a prime influencer position which does a couple of things.

1. It creates good headlines and title for reports to push on people (kind of like dealers do isn’t it?)

2. Gets people funding for projects that pay salaries

Marketing Pilgrim’s Social Channel is proudly sponsored by Full Sail University, where you can earn your Masters of Science Degree in Internet Marketing in less than 2 years. Visit for more information.

Neither of these are great trust builders when it comes to this area of study. Let’s face it, it has been shown time and time again that the bias in research is turning the field into a cesspool of paid for advertising and PR for either products or agendas so if there is anywhere to exercise caution is in research around social media and its impact.

The last bit of information that I gleaned from this report (please look at it in its entirety to draw your own conclusions) was the following finding.

The assumption is that if the child is younger they are less likely to make a good decision and are more influenced in the social media world. That may be true on some levels. People get wiser as they get older. What is likely a bigger concern is that if your kid is friending or hanging out with kids at a very young age who drink and use drugs in the first place you are not paying attention. Sure a social network can exacerbate a bad situation but the root causes aren’t likely found there. The less monitoring and discussing of these issues with children in a real world sense from the parents, the more likely kids will take cues from their peers. This one is on the parents more than it is social networking, in my opinion.

So that’s my take on some findings that come from the smart folks at Columbia. But hey, I’m just a guy from with a degree from lowly Boston College so what do I know, right?

  • dean

    Frank –

    I have just concluded a study at the Shaw Institute which found a direct correlation between being a teenager and experimenting with drugs and alcohol. The astonishing results of the study were based on stuff that every freaking kid does as they grow up. Other findings concluded:
    – Teenagers were 60% more likely to listen to music that is louder and more horrible than what their parents listened to.
    – 92% of teenage boys use the “F” word when hanging out with their buddies
    – 77% of teenage girls wear skirts that their Dads think are too short
    – 82% of teens do not walk 10 miles to school every day like their parents did.
    – 72% of teen boys have long hair that made them look like hooligans

    Copies of this mind-blowing report are available for $99 at

    • @Dean – Only $99?!?!? I’ll take two! This was a pretty funny study coming from such a “respected” source, huh?

      I was waiting for the conclusion of the report to be a pitch for a bridge in Brooklyn that they had for sale or some oceanfront property in Kansas.

      Thanks for sharing your Shaw Institute findings 🙂

  • One of the first things you learn in a PhD program is about spurious correlations or correlation doesn’t equal causation. In other words, their results “suck” — a very technical evaluation of their data based on years of advanced statistical research and training. (Non-professionals are discouraged from using such technical terms without proper training).

    It’s the same type of research supporting the correlation between Marijuana and use of harder drugs that lead to it’s criminalization.

    Unfortunately, a lot of medical research is of a similar caliber. Scary!

    • Luckily the study found that 9 of 10 parents don’t believe that there is any more to it than correlations …

  • Studies like this always make me laugh, and reminds me of a classic study and corresponding ad campaign my college did years ago. The tagline went something like:

    “The Majority of Dartmouth students drink 4 drinks or fewer drinks when they go out.”

    Which always cracks me up, because I could use the same data and accurate proclaim that:

    “The Majority of Dartmouth students drink 4 or MORE drinks when they go out.”

    Needless to say, I fell into the latter category 😉

    • LOL! From what I hear, Mike, your side of that coin describes MOST Dartmouth students!

      Thanks for checking in!

  • My degree is lowlier than yours and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I can add 9 + 1 (spam protection). Even with my primary skills, I can see there are a few holes in this. I hope the people that did the survey aren’t counting on it to get a grant or a job. Ugh. BTW–comments are pretty funny.