Is social media preventing teens from smoking, drinking and taking drugs?

teen on iphoneNZ Herald 3 October 2017
Family First Comment: Positive trends with risky behaviour – but is that because teens are spending too much time on screens and technology – and is that a positive alternative??

Modern Kiwi teenagers have turned to healthier living, virtually giving up smoking and cutting back sharply on binge drinking and illicit drugs.

The smoking rate had dropped to less than 3 per cent in 2015, from 15 per cent in 2000. The rate of regular binge drinking nearly halved in the 11 years to 2012. And illicit drug use fell to 23 per cent in 2012.

But researchers aren’t clear on the reasons behind these reductions in risky behaviour and wonder whether Snapchat and Facebook may play a role.

Otago University Wellington researcher Jude Ball, who was speaking at the Public Health Association Conference, said there had been large, almost simultaneous reductions in adolescent risk behaviours in a range of countries.teen risky behaviour nz herald 4 oct 2017She had found health interventions such as hikes in tobacco tax might have played a role, but the similarities in the data between countries despite variations in their tobacco controls suggested broader social forces were at work.

Some argue that social media is replacing risky behaviours: adolescents can be cool and sociable without drinking, and gaming, texting and social media means they have less time, or are less inclined, to drink or smoke.

“While this is a popular notion, there’s also a large body of evidence against it,” said Ball.
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