Teens Imitate Risky Behavior Shared Online

Posted on March 11, 2014

Teenagers put a lot of stock in what their peers are doing, and parents are forever trying to push back against that influence. But with the advent of social media, hanging out with the wrong crowd can include not just classmates, but teenagers thousands of miles away on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

"Kids partying, generally two to three in a picture, raising their glasses, cups, or beer cans," says , a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California, describing a typical photo shared by teenagers.

Valente is trying to figure out how much emotional weight those sorts of online images carry when it comes to risky behaviors. To do that, he and his colleagues surveyed more than 1,500 10th-graders who attended high schools in southern California.

They asked students how many of their friends posted photos of themselves smoking or drinking. Then they asked students about their own behavior after viewing the images.
Emily Kitfield, 16, says she's not sure if she would have been able to come out to her parents and community without being able to reach out to others online.

Students who saw images of partying with comments posted by friends were about 20 percent more likely to become drinkers or smokers themselves over the next few months, the study found. The were published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Category(s):Oppositional & Defiant Behavior in Children & Teens, Teenage Issues

Source material from NPR Health