What Parents Need to Know About Youth Media Use

In October of 2008, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released startling data indicating the extent to which Internet sites–particularly social networking sites—can facilitate dangerous behaviors among teens, tweens, and younger children. These behaviors can include drug and alcohol abuse, self-mutilation, gang recruitment, extreme violence, and anorexia and other eating disorders.1

A new Nielsen Online study, conducted on behalf of ONDCP measured the online viewing habits of teens and tracked their exposure to drug-related content. The findings reveal that one in 20 teens who are viewing online videos watched one or more drug-related videos during a one-month period. The analysis found that more than a third of those viewing drug-related content are under the age of 16.

"Parents read news stories about Internet pedophiles, and they understandably worry about their children being exposed to online pornography," said ONDCP Director John Walters. "And research shows parents aren’t worrying about drug, alcohol, and other dangerous content online and how it impacts their child’s behavior. Teens, tweens, and even younger children are barraged by risky material on the Internet. Parents need to get online and see for themselves what their child has access to. It’s time for them to upgrade their parenting skills.1"

ONDCP’s data snapshot of teen online exposure shows:

  • Nearly one in 20 teens online, viewed drug-related videos during a one-month period; 35 percent were under age 16 (Nielsen Online Custom Study).

  • Almost 40 percent of drug-related videos contain explicit use of drugs and/or intoxication (Nielsen Online Custom Study).

  • Even the youngest kids have access to dangerous online content. More than 8.9 million (8,934,000) two- to 11-year-olds viewed video online in August (Nielsen Online, VideoCensus).

  • The average age of first Internet exposure to pornography is 11 years old. Eighty percent of 15- to 17-year-olds have been exposed to hardcore porn multiple times (Internet-Filter-Review.com).

  • More than one in eight teens say someone has spread a rumor about them online. Nine percent of teens who use social networking sites say someone has posted an embarrassing picture of them online without their permission ("Cyberbullying and Online Teens." Pew Internet & American Life Project: Data Memo).

  • Nearly a third of students say their parents would disapprove if they knew what they were really doing on the Internet (i-SAFE Survey).

  • Drug use and underage drinking don’t make parents’ top 10 list of concerns about their kids’ online computer use (State of Internet Security: Protecting Children Online." Webroot Software).

Parents can help their children and teenagers by understanding these risks and taking time to discuss them with their children and teenagers. By taking the initiative to go to sites that are popular among youth (i.e YouTube, Facebook, etc), parents can see for themselves the type of images, videos, and content the younger generation is exposed to.

Parents and should communicate how much screen time is allowed each day and what type of media is allowed.

For more information on how to monitor teenager’s media use visit: www.TheAntiDrug.com
Or read Kids want parental help with online risk, but fear parental freak outs


1 "Popular Youth Web Sites Expose Teens, Tweens to Images of Violent Behavior, Substance Abuse." (9 October, 2008). PR Web. Retrieved from http://www.prweb.com/releases/ondcp-antidrug-teens/102008/prweb1448454.htm

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