Home > Lifestyle > Teen > News Updated 23 May 2014 Social media pics affect risky behaviour Researchers have examined how online social network activities influence smoking and alcohol use, especially in teens. 0 iStock Related Do you thrive on Facebook likes? Teens are sharing more online Facebook habits affect happiness Ask Teen Expert » Quiz Will the relationship last? » Test Push-ups » From girl to woman From boy to man 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 online edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health.How the study was doneValente 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 behaviour. 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 behaviours 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% of 12 to 17 year olds in the United States access the Internet every day, and 80 percent of those youth use online social networking sites to communicate."Students who responded to the survey were evenly distributed across gender and on average 15 years old. About two-thirds were Hispanic/Latino and about one-fourth were Asian, which closely reflects the ethnic distribution of El Monte. In April 2011, nearly 30% of respondents had smoked and more than half had at least one drink of alcohol. Roughly one-third of students reported having at least one friend who smoked and/or consumed alcohol.Almost half of all students reported visiting Facebook and Myspace regularly. Between October 2010 and April 2011, Facebook use (75%) increased while Myspace use (13%) decreased. On average, 34% of students had at least one friend who talked about partying online and 20% reported that their friends posted party/drinking pictures online.In line with earlier studies, the researchers observed differences between Facebook and Myspace users. Facebook-only users had higher grades, spoke more English at home and were more likely to have a higher socio-economic status. They were less likely to be Hispanic and less likely to have ever smoked or drank alcohol. While Facebook use did not seem to affect smoking or drinking, the study found that higher levels of Myspace use was associated with higher levels of drinking.Further research might examine how online and offline friendships differ in terms of activities and interactions they have with each other, Huang said."Little is known about how social media use affects adolescent health behaviors," said Huang, who now is a post-doctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute. "Our study suggests that it may be beneficial to teach teens about the harmful effects of posting risky behaviours online and how those displays can hurt their friends." EurekAlert NEXT ON HEALTH24X Humans correctly identify sick peers from a photo 2018-01-10 12:30 More: TeenNews advertisement Read Health24’s Comments Policy Comment on this story 0 comments Comments have been closed for this article. Logout Comment 0 characters remaining Share on Facebook Loading comments... Other news Lifestyle Here’s why you should take your houseplant to work Diet and nutrition Can coconut oil really help you lose weight? Medical SEE: About 90% of teenagers suffer from this condition Fitness 6 at-home tips for freshening up your runner’s feet Medical Pregnant moms' immune response could trigger birth defects Lifestyle Kegels for men are a thing, and you should absolutely be doing them From our sponsors Managing diabetes in the workplace Back-to-school with diabetes Discover treatments that can help reduce acne What can I do to reduce or remove acne marks? Live healthier Terrific Tea! » Rooibos makes cocktails healthier Rooibos: an alternative energy drink More than 10 reasons why rooibos is good for you Today marks the first annual National Rooibos Day, which aims to raise awareness of the health benefits and many uses of rooibos tea. Healthy? Are you sure? » 5 diseases we can get from animals Could your salon visit make you sick? 7 terrifying diseases you could have without knowing it Not all serious illnesses come with tell-tale symptoms. There are diseases that can turn your body into a ticking time-bomb while you're unaware of any danger.