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Friends' Facebook, Myspace photos affect risky behavior among teens
Date:9/2/2013

LOS ANGELES Teenagers who see friends smoking and drinking alcohol in photographs posted on Facebook and Myspace are more likely to smoke and drink themselves, according to a new study from the University of Southern California (USC).

"Our study shows that adolescents can be influenced by their friends' online pictures to smoke or drink alcohol," said Thomas W. Valente, Ph.D., professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the study's principal investigator. "To our knowledge, this is the first study to apply social network analysis methods to examine how teenagers' activities on online social networking sites influence their smoking and alcohol use."

The study appears in the Sept. 3, 2013, online edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Valente and his team surveyed 1,563 10th-grade students from the El Monte Union High School District in Los Angeles County in October 2010 and April 2011 about their online and offline friendship networks and the frequency of their social media use, smoking and alcohol consumption. At the time of the study, El Monte was the ninth largest city in the county, with a population of about 113,500.

The researchers found that the size of one's online network of friends was not significantly associated with risky behavior. Exposure to friends' online pictures of partying or drinking, however, was significantly associated with both smoking and alcohol use. Teens whose close friends did not drink alcohol were more likely to be affected by increasing exposure to risky online pictures.

"The evidence suggests that friends' online behaviors are a viable source of peer influence," said Grace C. Huang, Ph.D., MPH, a graduate of the Keck School of Medicine of USC's Health Behavior Research program and the study's first and corresponding author. "This is important to know, given that 95 percent of 12 to 17 year olds in the United States access the Internet eve
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Contact: Alison Trinidad
alison.trinidad@usc.edu
323-442-3941
University of Southern California - Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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