May 13, 2011

Teen Alcohol Use Linked To Social Computer Use

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Is your teen on the computer for non-school research, homework, or writing too many hours each day? Alcohol use has been linked to time spent using a computer for non-school-related activities, including the use of social networking sites, according to new Weill Cornell study.

Teenagers who drink alcohol spend more time on their computers for recreational use, including social networking and downloading and listening to music, compared with their peers who don't drink.

The study, conducted by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College, was based on a survey of 264 teenagers, aged 13 to 17.

Results showed that compared with teens that did not report drinking; those who drank alcohol in the last month used a computer more hours per week for non-school-related activities.

"While the specific factors linking teenage drinking and computer use are not yet established, it seems likely that adolescents are experimenting with drinking and activities on the Internet.  In turn, exposure to online material such as alcohol advertising or alcohol-using peers on social networking sites could reinforce teens' drinking," which Dr. Epstein, assistant professor of public health at Weill Cornell Medical College, was quoted as saying.  "Children are being exposed to computers and the Internet at younger ages.  For this reason it's important that parents are actively involved in monitoring their children's computer usage, as well as alcohol use."

"According to a national study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, more than half of parents of teenagers had filters installed on the computers their child uses to block content parents find objectionable, yet many parents do not use any form of parental monitoring, particularly for older teens," continues Dr. Epstein.

There was no strong link between video games and drinking or online shopping and drinking.  The link is to social networking, not computer video gaming.

"Going forward, we would like to collect more detailed and longer-term data on adolescent alcohol and computer use, including the degree and duration of their drinking habit," says Dr. Epstein.  Teenagers typically first experiment with alcohol at age 12 or 13.  Family risk factors include lax parental supervision and poor communication, family conflicts, inconsistent or harsh discipline and a family history of alcohol or drug abuse.

"This is an innovative study that is an important first step to understanding the potential impact that the Internet and new media may have on today's youth," which Dr. Gil Botvin, professor of public health and chief of the Division of Prevention and Health Behavior at Weill Cornell Medical College, was quoted as saying.  "The Internet offers a wealth of information and opportunities for intellectual and social enrichment. However, it is becoming clear that there may also be a downside to Internet use. More systematic research is needed to better understand to those potential dangers and how to combat them."

SOURCE: Addictive Behaviors, May 9, 2011