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A new study says teens who social network are more likely to abuse substances. But not everyone agrees with that conclusion.

A new study by the Columbia University’s Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse out today says social networks are the ultimate substance abuse enablers for teens.

The study’s authors believe when teens see pictures of their peers smoking, drinking and using drugs on Facebook and other social networks, they’re more likely to try it themselves. Specifically, teens on social networks were five times more likely to use tobacco products, three times more likely to drink and two times more likely to smoke marijuana than peers who are not on social networks, says the study.

“In other words, teens likely to act like teens,” Ana Murmann tweeted in response to a San Francisco Chronicle article about the study.

Of course, it’s hard to know which teens they’re talking about. Some 93 percent of American teens were online in 2009, according to Pew Internet & American Life Project. And 73% of those teens were using social networks.

The social networking data was part of center’s 16th annual “back to school” survey.

“The Internet puts it in your head,” high school junior Dana Cichon, 16, told the Chicago Tribune. “You think everyone else is having more fun than you.”

“I’m quoted! Yippeeeee,” Chicon tweeted a few hours after the article was published.

The study adds a new layer of concern for parents, who have already been warned repeatedly that kids on social networks are more likely to bully and be bullied.

The researchers were hesitant to name specific causes for the correlation, but Steven Wagner, president of QEV Analytics, a Washington, DC-based public-opinion research firm that worked with CASA on the study, told The Fix that it seems similar to the bully connection.

Parents should “not necessarily tell a kid they can’t use the social networking sites, but…realize they’re going to be exposed to these risks and to do a little preemptive communicating,” Wagner said in an interview with the online magazine about addiction and recovery.

Photo by the San Jose Library 

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