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
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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?