POPULAR YOUTH WEB SITES EXPOSE TEENS, TWEENS TO IMAGES OF VIOLENT BEHAVIOR, SUBSTANCE ABUSE

 Downloadable "Teens and Technology" Package Available for Parents in Your Community

The Office of National Drug Control Policy released a startling data compilation indicating the extent to which Web sites - particularly those that post user-generated content - can spread misinformation and facilitate dangerous behaviors among teens, tweens, and younger children.  These behaviors can include drug and alcohol use, self-mutilation, extreme violence, and anorexia and other eating disorders.  While parents in your community may be aware of the risks of online pedophiles and other sexual predators, they may not be aware of the nature and extent to which their children are exposed to or engaging in other dangerous behaviors online.

Recent research* has indicated that drugs don't make parents' Top 10 list of concerns about their kids' online computer use.  Therefore, ONDCP has undertaken an analysis of youth-accessible online content in an effort to increase in-depth understanding of the ubiquity of portrayals of risky behaviors that teens are exposed to when they are online, including drug use.  Drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs, sex and other egregious content are widespread, easily accessible, seldom shows any consequences, and rarely refuted.  ONDCP believes that alerting parents to this problem is essential to reducing teen drug abuse and other problem behaviors.

A new Nielsen Online study, conducted on behalf of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) during the month of June and released today, measured the online viewing habits of teens, and tracked their exposure to drug-related content.  The findings reveal that in any given month, nearly one million teens are exposed to one or more drug-related videos.  The analysis found that more than a third of those viewing drug-related content are under the age of 16. 

Other findings include:

  • Almost 40 percent of drug-related videos contain explicit use of drugs and/or intoxication (Nielsen Online Custom Study);
  • 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);
  • Nearly a third of students say their parents would disapprove if they knew what they were really doing on the Internet (i-SAFE Survey);

Even the youngest kids have access to dangerous online content.  The top online video destination for 2- to 11-year-olds (by audience size) is YouTube.com, followed by DisneyChannel.com.  Today's tech-savvy teens are targets for those promoting substance abuse and other risky behaviors by posting pictures to their social-networking pages or uploading video on sites like YouTube.com.  The Web and image-sharing technologies available on cell phones have exponentially expanded teens' abilities to see and engage in dangerous behaviors. 

When dealing with the Internet, parents need to monitor differently and update their parenting skills.  To read more information on the new study, download the teen online exposure fact sheet. 

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