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Teenagers, Alcohol and Internet Use Unhealthy Mix?


A new study suggests that teenagers are mixing alcohol with pleasure when it comes to Internet use. However, the same relationship does not appear to hold true for drinking alcohol and using the computer for school work.

Internet may promote alcohol use among teenagers

Years ago, parents worried about what their kids watched on TV or saw in movie theaters. However, once the Internet became widely available, some of that worry shifted to online content.

In a new study, researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College evaluated the survey results from 264 teenagers ages 13 through 17 who lived in the United States. The teens were questioned about their Internet and alcohol use, including computer use for school work, video games, online purchasing, social networking, and listening to and downloading music.

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The investigators found that teenagers who drink alcohol spend more time using the computer for pleasure, such as social networking and music, when compared with their peers who don’t drink alcohol. One possible reason for this apparent relationship between Internet use and alcohol use may be the online content to which teenagers are exposed.

According to Dr. Jennifer Epstein, assistant professor of public health at Weill Cornell Medical College, “exposure to online material such as alcohol advertising or alcohol-using peers on social networking sites could reinforce teens’ drinking.” This is a concern, given that children are introduced to computers and the Internet at a very young age, which is why Epstein noted that “it’s important that parents are actively involved in monitoring their children’s computer usage, as well as alcohol use.”

Although the researchers saw a link between alcohol consumption and more frequent social networking and music activities on the Internet, they did not see a strong link between drinking and video games or online shopping. There also was no link between teenagers using their computer for school work and alcohol use.

When it comes to the Internet and the information it provides, there is both an upside and a downside. Dr. Gil Botvin, professor of public health and chief of the Division of Prevention and Health Behavior at Weill Cornell Medical College, noted that their study “is an important first step to understanding the potential impact that the Internet and new media may have on today’s youth,” and that impact may include alcohol use among teenagers.

Weill Cornell Medical College