Could Facebook be the new gateway drug? According to a new study by Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter lead to more risky behavior like drinking, smoking, doing drugs, and having sex.
Researchers surveyed 4,257 students and found a correlation between spending three hours a day on social networks and behaviors like binge drinking, skipping class, and even considering suicide.
Called “hypernetworkers”, researchers estimate only 11.5 percent of teens actually fall in this category (I was surprised – does this number seem low to you?)
The study also looked at those who send more than 120 text messages a day and concluded these “hypertexters” are at the same risk for alcohol, sex and drug abuse.
The study might have its flaws. Researchers said that heavy texting and social networking was more common in minority girls and kids from broken homes with lower education levels, so perhaps those factor in to teen’s risky behaviors more than their Facebook habits?
But lead study author Dr. Scott Frank, director of the public-health master’s program at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine defends his findings. He is quoted in the New York Times saying:
“It does make sense that these technologies make it easier for kids to fall into a trap of working too hard to fit in. If they’re working that hard to fit in through their social networks, they’re also trying to fit in through other behaviors they perceive as popular, like smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, having sex and getting involved in higher-risk adolescent behaviors.”