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Facebook Can Warn of Teen Alcohol Abuse

8 July 2013
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Facebook Can Warn of Teen Alcohol AbuseSome teens spend hours a day on Facebook and other social media sites. Many parents and teachers wonder what kind of impact this has on kids’ behavior and development.

A 2011 study supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that Facebook may be a reliable indicator of a problem with teen alcohol abuse.

Alcohol Related Facebook Posts

The study, which was done by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that people who share posts on Facebook of themselves drinking and getting drunk are more likely to have problems with alcohol abuse in the future.

Megan Moreno, M.D., one of the researchers, said, “We found that underage college students who referenced dangerous drinking habits, such as intoxication or blacking out, were more likely to have Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test scores that indicate problem drinking or alcohol-related injury.”

The results of the study are pretty straightforward, and shouldn’t come as a surprise. What might be surprising is that teens and young adults continue to post drunken pictures on Facebook and broadcast their activities to the world. But because teens continue to post about their drinking habits, using the information from this study would provide a great opportunity to find out who needs help.

Monitoring Teen Activity

Parents need to be aware of what their teen is doing and what they are posting on sites like Facebook. According to this study, the presence of alcohol-related posts indicates a problem. 60% of students who make drunken alcohol references on their Facebook pages have a higher risk for alcohol related dependence.

Privacy is a big issue, but teens must know that what they post can be seen in some way by everyone. Parents should monitor their child’s Facebook activity, and intervene when necessary. Moreno said, “Our study suggests that parents and college health care providers who note references to problem drinking on the Facebook profiles of adolescents should consider discussing drinking habits with their children and patients.”

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