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Social Networking Sites and Reality TV: Harmless Fun or Dangerous to Your Teen’s Health?

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Most people wouldn’t consider Facebook very dangerous to teen health. Sure, they might waste time and avoid doing their homework by checking up on all their "friends", but beyond that it seems like a harmless pastime. However, according to recent reports, teenagers who regularly use social networking sites or watch suggestive televison (think reality TV) are more likely to use drugs and alcohol than teens who do not use these media outlets.

The data was garnered from a survey of 1,000 teenagers from around the nation ages 12 to 17 and about half of their parents. According to the survey, 70% of the teens used a social networking site on a typical day. Social networkers were 5 times more likely to use tobacco, 3 times more likely to use alcohol, and 2 times a likely to smoke marijuana compared to teens who didn’t use social networking sites. Additionally, about 1/3 of the teenagers also reported that they watched reality television shows such as "16 and Pregnant", Jersey Shore", "Skins", or "Gossip Girl". Regular viewers of these TV shows were 2 times more likely use tobacco or alcohol.

However, the researchers also warn that watching trashy reality TV shows or regularly using Facebook causes increased drug or alcohol use. Yet, that is not to say that what kids see on TV or the Internet doesn’t affect them. For example, one of the researchers noted that about half of the teens who regularly use social networking sites have seen a picture of a kid passed out, drinking, or doing drugs and that might make such behaviors seem "like a rite of passage".