How Likes on Social Media Can Encourage Risky Teen Behavior in Real Life

Every month, we keep you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at a new study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism that shows a connection between “likes” and peer approval of teen drinking.

It is often discussed that social media can be persuasive and misleading for those who over-indulge. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recently conducted a study wherein students who had not yet started drinking took a survey that indicated their perception of their peers based on the number of “likes” they received, particularly pertaining to photos involving alcohol. For students who had previously begun drinking, the presence of alcohol did not affect their interpretation or reception of the photo. However, for those who had never drank alcohol, the photos including alcohol were perceived to have a higher number of likes and engagement; further prompting them to believe that alcohol usage promotes social acceptance.

While social media has many positive and negative effects, one of the most important things for teens to remember is that it should not define their lifestyles. Teens often get lost in the idea that being “trendy” or highly accepted on social media equates with status or popularity in the real world. It is important that people in who play an integral role in their lives—everyone from parents to teachers and guidance counselors—reinforce the notion that the public persona created on social media does not measure up to reality.

Managing the Influence of Risky Behavior on Social Media

Many parents could be caught off guard in discovering their teen’s interest to be involved in risky behaviors because they may not realize the influence that social interactions are having on their child. If you have a feeling your teen might be interested in indulging in risky behaviors based on what they are being exposed to it may be a good idea to:

  • Talk to your teen about what they see on social media
  • Monitor your teen’s social media feed
  • Follow your teen’s social media account

Talk to Your Teen about what They See on Social Media

This is a great first step to check in with your child about what they are being exposed to in socially interactive settings. During this conversation you have an opportunity to emphasize the false impression that social feeds can give viewers and reinforce positive and healthy behaviors with your child.

Monitor Your Teen’s Social Media Feed

If you are concerned about the content and influences your child is being exposed to on social media, it could prove helpful to monitor what is coming through their feed. Monitoring will help you identify and be informed of risky behavior your teen could be exposed to. You can find tips for starting a conversation about smartphone monitoring here.

Follow Your Teen’s Social Media Account

This is less invasive than monitoring their feed directly and it allows for you to view content that your teen could be posting that promotes or glorifies risky behaviors. By following your teen’s account, you could have oversight on their social influences without feeling overbearing.

It is important for parents to maintain awareness of topics discussed on social platforms and the effect these conversations can have on their teens. Stay up-to-date on trending behaviors among teens following our blog, which features pieces from healthcare professionals, parents, and community members offering advice for raising teens and keeping them safe in today’s world.

Along with following our blog, you can keep up with the Stop Medicine Abuse campaign on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on studies, parenting tips, and more information on keeping teens from engaging in risky behaviors.

Want to learn more about the study mentioned above? You can read more about the study here.

Have any thoughts of your own? Feel free to share them in the comments below.