October 7, 2008

Teens Exposed To Drug Use Through Online Videos

Speaking in support of a new study about drug-related videos on popular social networking sites, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy told reporters that Internet videos have the ability to influence teenage drug activity.

According to a study that took place in June, five percent of teens on the Internet acknowledged watching at least one drug-related video that month.

"Parents would be horrified to think that people are sneaking into their house to encourage their kids to build a bong or to chug on beer at age 13," Walters said.

These videos are usually amateur in quality and posted by Internet users on video-sharing pages and Web sites.

"The fact is those people are sneaking into your house through your Internet connection on your computer," Walters said.

Walters said while the number of teens in the study who viewed drug-related videos was limited to 5 percent, he suspects the number of teens exposed to that content over the course of a year is higher. More than a third of the 6,000 teen participants of the study were under the age of 16.

The study found 40 percent of the drug-related videos seen by teens in the study contained explicit use of drugs or footage of intoxicated users.

"Kids already did stupid stuff, but what's new is kids are recording what they're doing and broadcasting it for the world in competition for a kind of celebrity," said Peter Zollo, co-founder and chief executive officer of TRU, a market research firm that studies how teens use the Internet.

Walters admitted that forbidding a teenager access to the Internet was not a realistic option because they rely heavily on the Web for schoolwork.

Instead, Walters' tips for parents include checking the browser history on their computers, and since the videos are posted on sites where teens meet other Internet users, Walters said parents should look at text messages and incoming and outgoing phone numbers on their teens' cell phones.

"Nobody's talking about censorship over the Internet here, what we're talking about is legitimate parental supervision," he said.


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